Tomás Clancy reviews Chateau de Tracy, AC Pouilly-Fume 2016 and Weingut Gras, Spatburgunder, German Pinot Noir 2015
Chateau de Tracy, AC Pouilly-Fume 2016
Pricing : around €29
Available : Carry Out off licences nationwide
This is a very beautiful and mouth-watering Sauvignon Blanc based wine from the original birthplace of Sauvignon Blanc, world’s dominant white wine grape, the Loire Valley.
Chateau de Tracy is an actual honey coloured, turreted castle that sits on a small hill overlooking the tiny nearby river port of Tracy sur Loire. So many wine chateau are perfectly nice, country houses, that when you arrive in front of a genuine fairy-tale castle it is hard to believe it is also a working winery.
The castle has been owned by the same family since 1396, though being a very ancient and noble family they seem very keen to mention that there was a transition in 1586, when the castle passed through a daughter to the current line, the Counts D’Assay, who survived the guillotine and French Revolution intact.
They have been growing vines here from at least 1396, but Roman remains suggest we can push the history back another thousand or so years.
The reason why wine has been made here for so long is that Pouilly Fume and Sancerre the two local appellations sit on beautiful sloped hills of white chalk and flint, right next to a huge navigable river. The longest in France at around 1000km.
The Romans used it as a superhighway to transport goods, including wine and picked out all the best spots. In the Middle Ages the Plantagenets Kings of England and France made this their base and built brilliant castles and of course encouraged and supported vast wine growing, of expensive royalty worthy wines.
In 1516, French King Francis I, invited Leonardo DaVinci to move to the Loire, which he did and spent the rest of his life with the French King. The Mona Lisa, which DaVinci kept with him always, travelled with him and began its journey to stardom. When DaVinci died a distraught King Francis had it hung permanently in his chambers, which is how it came to be France’s greatest treasure.
Everything the royal French court prized in the Loire became deeply fashionable in other European courts and so Pouilly Fume as here, or Sancerre and many other Loire wine became deeply engrained as regal, fine wines.
This example unlike New World Sauvignon Blanc is built to age but can be enjoyed now with mouth-watering tart acidity, touches of gooseberry and then a smokey touch and a little leafy blackcurrant taste and then back to a lime fresh zesty finish. It is a beautiful wine for a big family Sunday lunch, made glorious if we do get the predicted heat over the next few weeks.
Weingut Gras, Spatburgunder, German Pinot Noir 2015
Pricing : around €19.99
Available : SuperValu Stores nationwide.
This isn’t just a very attractive wine, this deep, ripe and quite full bodied red wine is the final signal of the widespread arrival of a whole new category of wines to Ireland, red wines from north and eastern Europe.
Global Warming used to be the phrase that was used as an alarming slogan for the fact that the planet was going to burn up and Ireland might get a Mediterranean climate. In fact the increases in temperature are likely to be much more gradual and we have moved to calling it Climate Change. Here in Ireland we know it is as likely to give us a blast of snow as sun.
One of the frontlines of experiencing this Climate Change is wine, because unlike cereal crops or vegetables for example which are grown from seeds each year, like trees, vines are planted and take years, decades often to mature into a vine from which you can get wine quality producing grapes. The wine grower cannot change the location of their vines.
In Germany, being so far north, they have for hundreds of years got just enough sun on due south facing slopes to ripen white grapes to an attractive level and great Rieslings have dominated the best wines. However, most wineries made a little Spatburgunder, the German name for Pinot Noir. In exceptionally brilliant summers these wines were highly prized but mostly they were make do wines for a little contrast to white wine and drunk quietly in the locality.
All that has changed over the last decade, in the south of Germany, in the Pfalz region especially and here to the west of Stuttgart, more famous as the home of Porsche and Mercedes Benz, we have had five or six consecutive vintages of fully ripe, delicious, complex Pinot Noir that has a New Zealand like brightness, rather than a Burgundy depth. Nuits-St-Georges producers are not in trouble yet, but this is a Pinot Noir that outshines many similarly priced New World Pinot Noir. A very attractive wine overdelivering on its price from an undervalued, but rising star region.