Tomás Clancy reviews Bodegas Fernando de Castillo, Vermouth, Brancott Estate Flight, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 and I Heart Cabernet Sauvignon, Spain, 2015 in a bumper packed show
Bodegas Fernando de Castilla, Vermut, Vermouth NV, Jerez, Spain
Pricing : €26.95
Available : Searsons, Monkstown, Baggost Street Wines, Dublin 4 and online nationwide at baggotstreetwines.com and selected wine shops and off licences nationwide
This is one of the oldest forms of wine in the world with the Chinese making a botanically flavoured and infused wine perhaps 6,200 BC, so almost 8000 years ago. The oldest botanically infused wine was found in Henan Province in northern China. A fabulous book Vermouth by Adam Ford was published two years ago and kick-started a wave of Vermouth bottlings that were aimed for the first time in about 400 years at plain, straight tasting on their own and not as part of a cocktail or medicinal remedy.
Like many liqueurs and ancient wine names like Benedictine and Noilly–Prat or Lillet in Bordeaux, they all began, as Vermouth did in ancient china and ancient Greece as a wine that had botanicals like brakes, herbs, plant extracts and Wormwood added to them, often as a preservative.
However by the medieval period, good for you botanicals or like aspirin in bark needed to be made palatable and so they were either mixed in wine, giving us Vermouths or they were distilled into deep liqueurs like Benedictine.
Woodworm was long used in stomach treatments, and a host of nervous ailments and to revive an appetite. Its Latin name, Artemisia Absinthium gives us the clue that it was the active ingredient in the spirt Absinthe, so there were other things associated with it in high concentrations too.
This example uses the brilliant and rich grapes of the Jerez region, Palomino & Pedro Ximenez, in the form of Olorosos and Pedro Ximenez from Fernando do Castillo, the leading bespoke producer of some of the most desirable and brilliant Antique Sherry.
The name on the label here is Vernut, which is the original Germanic name for Wormwood, Vermouth is how the English and French interpreted how the Italians were pronouncing and using it.
This is a red and sweeter Vermouth as contrasted with the dry, white vermouth used in Martini and is best served chilled, with ice and a slice of orange in a large wine glass. You will wonder why we ever thought of adding in spirts, its entirely delicious and ancient tasting on its own with perfumed, woody forest like charm.
Brancott Estate, Flight Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand 2016
Pricing : €15.99 on offer in Carry Out at €12.99
Available : Widely good independent Off Licences and wine shops nationwide and at O’Briens, SuperValu and Carry Out Off Licences nationwide
The Brancott Estate name is one that was more less forced upon one of New Zeland’s oldest and pioneering wineries formerly known as Montana to longer in the took Irish wine lovers.
In many ways it is Montana, or Brancott Estate that should be heralded as the creators of the Sauvignon Blanc loving world in which we all now live. It was their plantings in the mid-1970s in Marlborough at the edge of Cloudy Bay that inspired the estate that took its name from the large coastal inlet on the norther edge of New Zealand’s South Island.
Brancott Estate have then more experience in Sauvignon Blanc production in its contemporary form than any other producer in New Zealand. It is also the case that the fruitier, cleaner, pyrazine and tropical fruit signature for New World Sauvignon Blanc that overturned Sancerre’s vice like grip on the white wine world started under Brancott / Montana’s tenure as lead actor in New Zealand.
So if they spot or innovate a new trend it is definitely worth looking at as here with a lower alcohol version coming in at around 9%. This happily is not an alcohol free wine, which really do struggle for taste or a 5% low alcohol wine, the super light category which are also often lacking in depth and flavour.
Here they simply pick earlier than for full regular Sauvignon Blanc, earning there is less fructose and sugars and less to transform into alcohol. The result is a highly flavourful and aromatic wine, one that brings a little restraint to the wine which in fact seekers of restraint might like on its own without the interest of the lower alcohol benchmark. It works well here and really is well worth a try for any open hearted wine lover.
I Heart Cabernet Sauvignon, Spain 2015
Pricing : €10.99 on offer in Carry Out at €8.99
Available : Widely available nationwide from Carry Out Off Licences nationwide
This is a wine that is something of a vision of pre-Brexit Europe in a bottle, the I heart wine company is a UK based drinks company with a large portfolio of commercially oriented wine brands. That company Copestick Murray is in turn a wholly owned subsidiary of a great German wine company, the Henkel Group who produce some of Germany’s greatest secret their Champagne inspired Seckt.
They cannot say methode champagne on the bottle, but this winery founded in the 1820s most surely was the best German exponent of the sparkling process from across the border in France.
Henkel own Germany’s Chateau Lafite, the ultra-prestigious Schloss Johannisberg in the heart of the Rheingau as well as a Champagne House or two.
Henkel in turn is owned by Dr.Oetker who own just about everything else and they run hotels too including the Hotel Du Cap and Le Bristol in Paris.
So, when they decide to make a wine brand from scratch they have the clout and the contacts and as here they have gone for where the most commercially talked about and successful well priced red wines have emerged from over the last decade, Spain. Produced for Copestick Murray by Bodegas Panzia in the Zaragoza region of Spain, just to the south of Rioja and to the west of Barcelona the wine here is soft, fruit forward with a deep jammy nose and a super smooth finish.