MOVIES & BOOZE: Winter wines to start the festive season

Tomas Clancy reviews La Coste de los Andes 2016 Malbec and Crossroads, Winemaker Collection, Syrah, Hawkes Bay 2014

La Coste de los Andes 2016 Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina

Pricing : around €24.95

Available : All good off licences and wine shops nationwide

Both wines today are playing part of the shift towards winter and festive red wines, one of the many reasons we love wine in that it can be beautiful silk shirt and featherweight linen jacket during the sultry, shade seeking days of summer. A crisp, frosted glass of lip-smacking Sauvignon Blanc or a eye-closing cool rose at the sun’s height.

As the un-speakable dark morning rain and roof tile shuddering storms bash us into winter submission, wines of weight, warmth and soul, sipping meditative wines arrive on our shelves.

This year the luxury end of the festive wines face a strong push from the New World to be taken seriously in this more savoury, considered and not to put too fine a point upon it, dearer end of the market.

For the next few weeks, while price is still always a concern, budgets begin to rise.

Normally the names in this present and festive dining category are very familiar, Chateauneuf Du Pape, Rioja, Amarone, Chateau Bordeaux, Champagnes and Burgundy with the words Premiere and Grand Cru upon the label.

These remain the great, still practical most affordable luxuries but the New World is here with tales to tell and €50 a bottle to save you if you are willing to embrace the new.

This wine is a superb new adventure from the owners of French Cote D’Azur’s revered Chateau LA Coste.

There is an Irish connection, which we Irish lovers always like. Chateau La Coste is owned by Irish family the Mckillen, with Paddy Mckillen and his family having transformed the south of France estate into not just a great winery but an oasis of great art and architecture. Works by Sir Richard Rodgers, Calatrava and a new winery by Jean Nouvel make it a must visit point of pilgrimage for wine lovers.

This is their latest venture high up in Mendoza in Argentina where they have built a state of the art winery and divided straight in at the top by sourcing very fashionable and exciting uber high attitude  vineyards in Mendoza and the Uco Valley.

They are making super opulent, complex, savoury Malbec with a European restraint and long term ambition. This wine is fully organic, and is made, with superstar winemaker Michel Rolland of Pomerol using concrete egg fermentation vats and expensive French oak finishing for almost 2 years. The shorthand phrase for all this is, no expense has been spared.

This is a luscious, silky delight with a finish of savoury, ambitious delight.


Crossroads, Winemaker Collection, Syrah, Hawkes Bay 2014

Pricing :  around €25

Available : Independent off licences and wine shops nationwide

This is a wine that has been very slowly making its way towards Irish wine lovers for the last four or five years. It’s like one of the films by a revered director that seems to be picking up Gold Palms here, Silver Bears there. And yet a scour of the paper shows no cinema screenings. I have read a novel’s worth about this wine, before I finally tasted it earlier this week.

The problem in high end wine is the limits of production. The big names we might have heard of like Chateau Lafite-Rothschild actually only make a few thousand cases a year from their very finite vineyards, and when its sold out, that’s it, Now I don’t know if that should influence one’s thought about luxury goods, but for me it does. Yes, viewing a reproduction picture of the Mona Lisa can elicit admiration, but the real thing has a visceral added aspect. It is not fake news, it’s the last authentic experience, luxury is the gateway to this.

So what we have here like Andes La Coste, is Syrah, sourced from  a unique and glorious spot called the Gimblett Gravels in Hawkes Bay North Island New Zealand. It is a freak of nature, a river changed course and threw up these super draining riverbed gravels hat were like Bordeaux’s Grave region and like the rocky vineyards of the Rhone valley river bank.

Needless to say, some of the richest, savvy people ran and staked a claim here and formed and association to protect the wines, they sell for hundreds and thousands a bottle in great years to Asia Pacific basin collectors. The future elite wine buyers.

The wine reaches our shores thanks to Mark McCloskey, a Irish based wine importer. Mark has coaxed, in small quantities, this high end Syrah, channelling the very best of the Festive Rhone, at a fraction of the price, but with more awards that is seemly.

This is a startling wine, incredibly opulent, complex and with beautiful hints of hot summer melting tar roads, a touch of liquorice and some fine white pepper spice. Unashamed pleasure at a very fair price.