St. Patrick’s Day 2014 – A day of great bottles

There really isn’t anything unusual about an Irishman celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, but I like to think that since we share names, I have more right to indulge on this day than most.

This year, friends came over for lunch, and I was tasked with ensuring they remained ‘well lubricated’. Rather predictably, I only strayed out of Italy to make a brief stop off in Champagne.

Larmandier Bernier Longitude kickstarted the festivities (I’m not including the cheeky negroni I had before my friends arrived). It had a far rounder and richer mouthfeel than I expected – I even had to recheck the bottle to see if it really was extra brut!?! And all this without sacrificing freshness or precision. Fantastic length. The wonders of biodynamics at play again or just very fine winemaking? Either way, this was absolutely fantastic and arguably one of the finest NV Blanc de Blancs I’ve tasted.

A magnum of Pieropan’s Soave Classico La Rocca 2004 was opened when we sat down at the table. Pieropan makes two single vineyard Soaves – Calvarino and La Rocca – and while I’m firmly a Calvarino man myself, La Rocca is always such a crowd pleaser. The “ooohs and aahhs” started immediately the first glass was poured – an extraordinarily brilliant golden colour emerged from the very attractive artistically styled bottle. The grapes for La Rocca (100% Garganega) are picked late and also see some ageing in oak. It didn’t have the incisive minerality of a recent Calvarino that I tasted, but its buttery richness and ripe fruit flavours made it an outstanding pairing with roast chicken.

The red drinkers soon transitioned to Tenuta di Valgiano 2005; a difficult vintage in Valgiano but one which is reputed to have far surpassed expectations with time in bottle. Less full throttle than some other vintages I’ve tasted, it had wonderful balance and freshness. There was a still considerable intensity and persistence of bramble fruit, but it was all presented in a very elegant medium bodied style. Drinking very well now. Comparisons with the 2010 in terms of style are easy to make, if perhaps somewhat premature from my perspective based on a sole tasting of 2005. Needless to say, the decanter was emptied in no time.

Larmandier Bernier Champagnes are available in Ireland from Terroirs and in the UK from Lea & Sandeman.

Pieropan Soave, including the single vineyard selections, are imported in Ireland and the UK by Liberty Wines and are widely available.

Tenuta di Valgiano wines are available in Ireland and the UK from Berry Bros. & Rudd.