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Two middle-aged wines.

I recently retrieved a few cases of wine from a kind (and trusted) friend who allows me to store my wine in the basement of his house. I had bought all of them 5-10 years ago, all between €20-50 a bottle. As a result we have been having some lovely surprises over the last few weeks, including these two last weekend.

Ekam 2008, Castell d’Encus, Costers del Serge, Spain

13%

Glorious developed nose of herbs and honey; there is plenty of precise crisp lime zest and minerals, and the palate fills out with rich complex mature stone fruits, honey and grilled nuts, finishing dry. Delectable wine – and I have two more bottles to savour!

Riesling is rarely found in Spain, but here it forms the majority in a quite unique bend with Albariño! It works amazingly well. From vineyards at 1,000 metres altitude. I bought three bottles of this some 7-8 years ago, and squirreled it away. I wish I had bought more. The Celtic Whiskey Shop/Wines on the Green are listing the 2016 vintage for €32.

 

Sankt Paul 2010 Spätburgunder, Erste Lage, Friederich Becker, Pfalz

13.5%

Relatively full-bodied and powerful with lush ripe red cherry fruits, hints of spice and some toasty oak. Rounded, voluptuous and silky, with almost a sweetness to the fruit. Opened out very nicely over an hour or so.

Becker is reckoned to be one of the finest producers of Spätburgunder (aka Pinot Noir) in Germany. The wines are generally made in a rich powerful style. Most of his vines actually lie over the border in France, although not the single-vineyard Sankt Paul. I bought a couple of bottles of this wine from Cabot & Co. following a visit to the estate back 6-7 years ago. It has aged very well. Still available from Cabot & Co for €64 exc VAT.

 

 

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A Duo from Sicily

A Duo from Sicily

“The amount of bullshit in the wine world is almost as much as that in the world of fashion”. Marco de Grazia, founder of Tenuta delle Terre Nere, doesn’t pull his punches. “Winemaking is a cultural process whereby you want to express the character of that vineyard; therefore you have to step back. Most winemakers have very big egos – we are the opposite, we want you to taste the vineyard.”

Thirty years ago, de Grazia, an American wine importer, was one of the very first to set up an estate on the northern slopes of Mount Etna, an ancient vineyard that had largely been forgotten. Since then, the region has been recognized as one of the finest in Sicily, with producers from all over Italy flocking to buy up vineyards.

Today the Terre Nere estate has 55 hectares on the northern slopes of Mount Etna, 27 of which are in production. That includes 24 separate parcels, four released as single vineyard wines. Except for seven hectares of recently planted vineyards all of the vines are 50-100 years old, growing at altitudes of 600-1,000 metres. All of the Terre Nere wines are made from local, indigenous grape varieties. “A happy vineyard produces happy grapes”, says de Grazia; all of the wines are organic and vegan.

De Grazia recently visited Dublin where he, and importers Wine Mason, put on a tasting of the Terre Nere wines. The wines are all good, and some spectacular; over the last few years, this has become one of my favourite Italian producers.

 

Etna Bianco 2017 Tenuta delle Terre Nere

 

Floral, fresh and light, with soft pears and subtle stone fruits, and a lively mineral acidity. There is a fantastic succulence and purity to the fruit. Delicious wine with real character and good length.

 

This would go perfectly with simply-cooked white fish. Grilled hake or sole.

The red wines of Mount Etna tend to get all of the attention, but the white wines can be spectacularly good and are well worth seeking out. The Bianco is made from a blend of 65% Carricante, with varying smaller proportions of Catarratto, Inzolia, Grecanico, and Minella. Organic and vegan.

 

€25.95 from Redmonds, Dublin 6; Redmonds.ie; Ely Wine Store, Maynooth; elywinebar.ie; Mitchell & Son, chq, Dublin 1, Sandycove, and Avoca, Kilmacanogue & Dunboyne, mitchellandson.com; The Wicklow Wine Co., Wicklow, wicklowwineco.ie; Ely 64, Glasthule, Ely64.com; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6, greenmanwines.ie; Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4, baggotstreetwines.com; Devenys, Dublin 14;

 

Etna Rosso Guardioloa 2016, Tenuta delle Terre Nere

 

Elegant, high-toned cool savoury red fruits – redcurrants and cherries, with a taut structure, and fine drying tannins and minerals on the finish. Fantastic concentration and depth. Magnificent wine.

 

Keep for a year or two, or if you must open it now, decant and drink alongside roast or grilled pork with tomato-based sauce of some kind.

 

This is made from primarily Nerello Mascalase with some Nerello Cappuccio, from a single vineyard, one of the highest plots at around 1,000 metres. Di Grazia describes it as “an austere taut coiled spring”, and “a soprano of a wine”. I bought some of the 2014 to lay down for a year or so.

 

€45 from The Corkscrew, Dublin 2, thecorkscrew.ie; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock, blackrockcellar.com.

 

 

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Four great Rieslings to pair with seafood, Asian spices and Alsace classics

Rieslings from Aldi, Wittmann, Zinck and Immich-Batterieberg

First published in The Irish Times, 11th May, 2019

Having missed a connecting flight from London home to Dublin a few weeks back, and utterly exhausted, I treated myself to a reviving glass of Pewsey Vale’s The Contours Riesling, from Australia, and some potted shrimp with sourdough toast. It wasn’t cheap, but it was by far the best airport food I have had in years. It also reminded me just how good Riesling is with food.

Riesling is a contender, alongside Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, for the greatest white grape variety, with or without food. The food-matching side is all down to the acidity; white wines (and red) with good acidity tend to go well with food.

The best Riesling comes from four places: Alsace, Austria, Australia and Germany. Alsace and Austrian Riesling tends to be richer, higher in alcohol and dry. Australian Riesling, from the Clare and Eden Valleys, is light, bone dry and laced with lime and citrus. German Riesling varies, but if it has the word “Trocken” on the label, as many do, it will be dry (or just off dry) too.

Alsace Riesling goes really well with Alsatian food, such as coq au Riesling, choucroute garnie and other pork dishes, including belly of pork, as well as with all kinds of creamy sauces – try it with pork chops in a creamy mushroom sauce. A glass of Alsace Riesling is almost mandatory with onion tart, one of my favourite posh lunchtime dishes.

Riesling, particularly the German type, is very popular in Scandinavia as a partner for cured, smoked and lightly pickled seafood. Farther afield, it provides the perfect balance of light fruit and crisp acidity to match raw seafood – oysters, tartares, sashimi and ceviche. German Riesling tends to be lighter than others in alcohol (although not always these days), and I love it with fresh crab (sometimes with slivers of apple, matching the wine’s green-apple fruits) or with plainly grilled white fish.

German and Australian Riesling also work with Asian food. Try Aussie Riesling with crab cakes, pad thai and seafood salads, as well as with dishes with ginger, coriander, basil, lemongrass and green chillies. I once came across a memorable Mexican match of halibut ceviche with coriander leaves on a taco with a glass of Aussie Riesling. Heaven.

As you may have realised, much of the above is merely a ploy to get you to drink more Riesling. Over the past month I have enjoyed a bottle at least once a week. Most have been German Trockens, including several bottles I had aged for a few years. All have been brilliant, including a few glasses of the I Love Mosel Riesling (from Wines Direct, €18.25) that I couldn’t quite fit in below.

Aldi Exquisite Clare Valley Riesling 2015, Australia
13%, €9.99
Crisp lime zest and green-apple fruits, with mouthwatering acidity and a dry finish. Pair with prawn noodles, Thai crab cakes or spicy, herby Asian seafood dishes.
From Aldi, aldi.ie

Wittmann Riesling Trocken 2017, Rheinhessen, Germany (Organic)
12%, €22-€25
Luscious nectarines and peaches, a touch of honey, with a vivid streak of lemon zest. Perfect with crab salad, stir-fried prawns, seared salmon or chicken tikka.
From Listons, Dublin 2, listonsfoodstore.ie; Red Island Wine, Skerries, Co Dublin; the Corkscrew, Dublin 2, thecorkscrew.ie; Grapevine, Dalkey, Co Dublin, onthegrapevine.ie

Riesling 2017, Domaine Zinck, Alsace (Organic)
12.5%, €22.90
Delicious crisp, light dry riesling zinging with green apples and lemon zest. Try it with plainly grilled sea trout, onion tart or roast chicken.
From Morton’s, Dublin 6, mortons.ie; Ely 64, Glasthule, Co Dublin, ely64.com; siyps.com; McCabes @ the Gables, Dublin 18, mccabeswines.ie

Immich-Batterieberg Riesling Detonation 2017 (Organic), Mosel
11.5%, €26
I love everything about this wine: the pristine fresh peach and zingy lemon-zest fruits, the wonderful cleansing mineral acidity, the whiff of smoke and the excellent length. Pair with fresh crab salads, sashimi or simply cooked scallops or Dublin Bay prawns. From Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4, baggotstreetwines.com; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6, greenmanwines.ie; Loose Canon, Dublin 2, loosecanon.ie; Lilliput Stores, Dublin 7, lilliputstores.com; Grapevine, Dalkey, Co Dublin, onthegrapevine.ie

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Light, fruity flavours are the best wines for the summer season

First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 4th May, 2019

The great outdoors is not the place to bring your finest wines unless you are having a very posh alfresco lunch or dinner. Otherwise, if the sun is out, you should be cracking open something light and fruity – white, rosé or red, and preferably cool or chilled.

For white wine the rule is simple: go for something lowish in alcohol, unoaked and fresh; New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Austrian Grüner Veltliner, Spanish Albariño and French Muscadet are all ideal. For red wines, try Beaujolais, Loire Cabernet, Austrian Blaufränkisch, New Zealand Pinot Noir or one of the Chilean reds from Itata I wrote about a few weeks ago.

Beaujolais for me is the perfect all-purpose summer wine, with or without food. I tried it with my brined and barbecued shoulder of pork; it worked surprisingly well, the fresh acidity of the Beaujolais cutting through the fatty pork. You could try it with grilled pork chops, garlicky posh sausages, lamb, and vegetable brochettes, as well as cold meats and pates. Alongside, you could serve two other great French picnic wines, Muscadet and Provence rosé.

Like Beaujolais, Muscadet is one of the great summer wines, lively and refreshing, light enough to drink on its own but a great match for salads, white meats and fish. You can find inexpensive versions in most supermarkets. Aldi and SuperValu in particular offer good value. But as is invariably the case, if you spend a few euro more, the wine will so much better. These days Muscadet produces some very high-quality, nuanced, complex wines, and I adore them.

For many people, a chilled glass of rosé is the very essence of summer. Dry or off-dry, it is another great all-purpose wine, to be dunk solo, with salads and cold foods, and spicy barbecued white meats such as chicken. Just try to avoid the very sweet versions.

I have barbecued half a dozen times so far this year, each time a roast of some sort, although burgers grilled over charcoal with mesquite proved very popular too. Winewise, the St Hallett below worked really well with a whole roast chicken stuffed with garlic and herbs. This would also partner Jess Murphy’s lamb chops recipe in today’s Magazine very nicely, as would a Côtes du Rhône or Languedoc, or a Malbec from Argentina.

Château du Coing de St Fiacre 2016, Muscadet de Sèvre & Maine sur Lie
Château du Coing de St Fiacre 2016, Muscadet de Sèvre & Maine sur Lie

Château du Coing de St Fiacre 2016, Muscadet de Sèvre & Maine sur Lie
12%, €16.55
Lively pure ripe apple and pear fruits, subtle lemon zest and a fine mineral acidity. Drink it by itself, with shellfish, or summery salads.
From Bradleys Off-licence, Cork, bradleysofflicence.ie; Fallon & Byrne, Dublin 2, fallonandbyrne.com; the Corkscrew, Dublin 2, thecorkscrew.ie; Le Caveau, Kilkenny, lecaveau.ie; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6, greenmanwines.ie; Listons, Dublin 2, listonsfoodstore.ie; MacGuinness Wines, Dundalk, Co Louth, dundalkwines.com; Worldwide Wines, Waterford, worldwidewines.ie

Fleurs de Prairie Côtes de Provence Rosé 2018
Fleurs de Prairie Côtes de Provence Rosé 2018

Fleurs de Prairie Côtes de Provence Rosé 2018
13%, €9.99
It comes in a very bling bottle and has tangy ripe raspberry and strawberry fruits, finishing dry. Serve with summery grilled seafood and chicken dishes or with salads. This would be good with Jess’s sherry and sesame drumsticks.
From Aldi, aldi.ie

St Hallet Gamekeper’s Red 2015, Barossa, Australia
St Hallet Gamekeper’s Red 2015, Barossa, Australia

St Hallet Gamekeper’s Red 2015, Barossa, Australia
14%, €15.95 (down from €19.95 for May)
Medium-bodied, smooth and ripe, this would go down a treat with those spicy lamb chops and/or the chicken drumsticks. Perfect barbeque red.
From O’Briens, obrienswine.ie

Beaujolais Villages Le Vin des Roches 2016, Domaine Longère
Beaujolais Villages Le Vin des Roches 2016, Domaine Longère

Beaujolais Villages Le Vin des Roches 2016, Domaine Longère
12.5%, €23
Light, fresh, juicy red cherries and plums, with real length and style. The perfect summer wine to serve lightly chilled with all sorts of picnic foods, salads and barbecued white meats.
From Ely 64, Glasthule, Co Dublin, Ely64.com; Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4, baggotstreetwines.com; First Draft Coffee & Wine, Dublin 8, firstdraftcoffeeandwine.com; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6, greenmanwines.ie

 

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FRIDAY NIGHT DINNER

FRIDAY NIGHT DINNER

 

It is often said that wine is all about time and place; it tastes better (or worse) depending on the food, the company and where you find yourself eating. I had tried the two wines below before in professional tastings. Both were very good but had been outshone by rival wines. Both tasted immeasurably better one Friday night, after a long, hard week, over dinner at home with my wife.

Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume 2017, Domaine Séguinot-Bordet

13%

€30.95

Floral and fresh, very forward with excellent racy acidity to keep balance; verdant lip-smacking green apple fruits, and a cleansing dry finish. Still youthful but irresistible right now.

We had ours with seared scallops with lemon zest and butter.

Fourchaumes is one of the best-known of the premiers crus of Chablis, partly due to its size. It also has a very favourable position just north of the Grands Crus, south facing with clay-limestone Kimmeridgean soils. It is held to be one of the finest of the premiers crus along with Mont de Milieu and Montée de Tonnerre, all of which are located on the north banks of the river Serein.

Available from Wines Direct, Mullingar, and Arnott’s, Dublin 1, winesdirect.ie

 

 

Pavillon de Léoville Poyferré 2015, St. Julien

13.5%

€45

Classic modern Saint Julien, forward and fragrant, with rich opulent blackcurrant fruits, cedar and subtle new oak, fine tannins and impressive rounded length.

A roast leg of lamb would be perfect.

This is not the second wine of Ch. Léoville-Poyferré (that is Ch. Moulin Riche) but made from younger vines on the estate. Tasted and then Coravined a few weeks earlier. On the first occasion it was fine, but another less expensive wine showed better.

Available from Whelehan’s, Loughlinstown, whelehanswines.ie

 

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Warmer days mean lighter wines.

Bring out those lighter reds and refreshing white wines that may have seemed anaemic a few weeks ago

 

First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 27th April, 2019

I am tempting fate, but as I type the sun is shining, the sky is a lovely clear blue and the garden is erupting into life – mainly with a lot of unwelcome weeds, or flowers in the wrong place, as my mother insists on calling them. On Wednesday most of northern Europe celebrates May Day, the start of summer – or is it spring? It is time to celebrate new growth and the promise of summer foods.

It’s also time to adjust our drinking habits. Now is the moment to bring out those lighter reds and crisp, cool, refreshing white wines that may have seemed a little anaemic just a few weeks ago. So, today, a quick run through some of my favourite early-summer wines, and the foods to accompany them.

How about a glass of Lambrusco, a fizzy red wine that you serve chilled? Try it. I am a big fan of real Lambrusco, one of the original pét nats – pétillants naturels, or naturally sparking wines. Bring out your inner hipster and share a glass of this low-alcohol, lightly sparkling wine with a few slices of salami, prosciutto and sourdough bread before dinner or lunch.

Sauvignon Blanc, with its aromas of herbs and greenery, is one of the great spring-summer wines, ideal with soft goat’s cheese salads, whether with beetroot, broad beans or lots of summery herbs, and also good with asparagus.

A glass of Grüner Veltliner from Austria or Riesling Trocken from Germany sings of early summer to me. Both are fairly versatile, Grüner in particular, with all sorts of food, but they come into their own with smoked food – either fish or baked smoked ham, or with lightly spiced herby southeast-Asian chicken or seafood salads. With prawns or scallops served with something citrusy, there is nothing better than a Godello or Albariño from Galicia, or an Alvarinho from Portugal.

Chablis Premier Cru, a step up in price and quality from mere Chablis, is a great wine to serve at smart summer lunches, whether with oysters (traditional), cold chicken salads or, best of all, poached salmon with a buttery sauce or herb mayonnaise. The one below is a stunner, guaranteed to impress your guests.

Is it a little early for rosé? If you are serving a mix of salads, and possibly even barbecued meats, this is one of the most versatile food-friendly wines of all. Red wines should be lighter and served cool or even chilled; with seared salmon or tuna, look to New World Pinot Noir or Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley. My go-to summer wine is Beaujolais of some sort, served with all kinds of cold meats and salads, but I list two interesting alternatives below.

Bardolino “Reboi” 2017, Monte dei Roari
12.5%, €17-€18
Very inviting juicy, piquant black cherries and plums; fresh and very gluggable. With some salumi, mild cheeses and good bread.
From Sheridans Cheesemongers (South Anne Street, Dublin 2, Kells, Co Meath, and Galway branches); siyps.com; Green Man Wines, Terenure, Dublin 6

Altos Las Hormigas Tinto 2017, Mendoza
13.5%, €17.99
A blend of Bonarda, Malbec and Semillon (yes, the white grape), this is a very attractive, elegant wine with smooth red-cherry fruits and a rounded finish. Try it with dishes featuring herby tomatoes, red peppers or both.
From Cinnamon Cottage, Cork; Corkscrew, Chatham Street, Dublin 2; Donnybrook Fair, branches around Dublin; Green Man Wines, Terenure, Dublin 6; Red Island Wine, Skerries, Co Dublin; wineonline.ie

Albanta Albariño 2018, Rías Baixas
13%, €10.99
Fresh, succulent pear and green-apple fruits, with a clean, dry finish. With southeast-Asian seafood and chicken salads.
From Aldi

La Chablisienne 1er cru Vaulorent 2015
13.5%, €40
Alluring, sophisticated exotic fruits given shape by a backbone of a fine, cool minerality. It finishes dry, showing great persistence. Excellent, exciting wine.
From Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, Co Dublin; Redmonds, Ranelagh, Dublin 6; Vintry, Dublin 6; Clontarf Wines, Dublin 3; Cashel Wine Cellar; Sweeneys Wines, Glasnevin, Dublin 11; Ely 64, Glasthule, Co Dublin; Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4

 

 

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2016 Chablis 1er Cru Mont de Milieu, Domaine Christophe

2016 Chablis 1er Cru Mont de Milieu, Domaine Christophe

2016 Chablis 1er Cru Mont de Milieu, Domaine Christophe

13%

€49

A lovely complex floral nose; beautifully balanced ripe apple fruits with lime zest; elegant and restrained with a fine seam of mineral acidity. A classic Chablis of the highest order.

Oysters or even better gougères, those gorgeous cheesy choux pastry puffs would be great, but ideally I would keep this for a main course; poached salmon with home-made mayonnaise, or grilled sole with masses of butter and herbs.

This is not cheap, but it was one of my favourite wines from a recent tasting of Chablis Premiers Crus and is certainly worth it. I would happily lay it down for a few years, but it is a pleasure to drink now. This is a small estate, started as recently as 1999.

Available from SIYPS.com; Ely Wine Store, Maynooth; elywinebar.ie.

 

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Chianti Classico 2015, Fontodi

Chianti Classico 2015, Fontodi

Picture 358

Chianti Classico 2015, Fontodi

14%

€31.99

This is relatively high in alcohol, but you wouldn’t notice it; lovely, fragrant, fresh wine with rich, ripe dark cherry fruits, a good backbone of fine tannins, and a nice bite on the finish.

Drink with grilled or roast red meats; bistecca alla fiorentina would be perfect.

I came across the smiling face of Giovanni Manetti, proprietor of Fontodi, on Netflix recently. He was talking about local butcher Dario Cecchini, who featured on Chef’s Table. Dario is a famous larger than life character based in Panzano, close to Fontodi, with a passion for meat and traditional butchery; he runs a butcher’s shop and several restaurants in Panzano. Where Cecchini is loud, talkative and expressive, Manetti is relaxed and charming. His vineyards are organic (as are virtually all in Panzano), located on the Conca d’Oro (or golden shell) an amphitheatre of vines facing to the south.

The Manetti family (who make terracotta tiles and now amphorae for making wine too!) bought the estate in 1968 and have slowly restored it. Giovanni has been in charge since 1980. It is now recognised as one of the finest in Chianti Classico. His special crus, Vigna del Sorbo and Flaccianello are both highly sought-after, but I have followed the above wine for many years; it mellows beautifully with age, but can always be approached when young. It is also very reasonably priced.

Available from: Ely 64, Glasthule, Ely64.com; Clontarf Wines, Dublin 3 clontarfwines.ie; The Corkscrew, Dublin 2, thecorkscrew.ie; Drinkstore, D7, drinkstore.ie; Ely Wine Store, Maynooth; elywinebar.ie; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6, greenmanwines.ie; The Hole in the Wall, Dublin 7; McHughs, Dublin 5, mchughs.ie; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, jusdevine.ie; he Malt House, Trim; Egan’s, Portlaoise; Sweeneys Wines, Glasnevin, sweeneyswines.ie; Terroirs, Dublin 4, Terroirs.ie; Wineonline.ie.

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Chile’s newest wines from some of the oldest vines

First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 20th April, 2019

Winemaker Roberto Henriques with colleagues in the Itata valley in Chile.

 

“Everyone was going northwards, to Casablanca, Leyda and Limari, so we went in the opposite direction,” says Pedro Parra, partner in Clos des Fous, one of the first companies to make quality wine in Itata. This region, along with neighbouring Bío-Bío and Malleco, are the most southerly vineyards in Chile, a four-hour drive from the main wine-producing areas.

Until recently, Itata had been seen as a backwater, useful only for producing the cheapest jug wines for home consumption. Yet more than 400 years ago, Itata was one of the first places the Spanish missionaries planted vines, essential for religious purposes. In those days it was the humble país grape. They brought the same variety to Argentina where it is known as criolla chica, and California, where it is known as mission.

Until recently it was always dismissed as being of inferior quality. “It will never produce truly great wine,” says Parra, “But it can make a very fresh and beautiful ‘vin de soif”. Along with two other ‘lesser’ grapes, cinsault and carignan, it is an ingredient in the Pour ma Gueule (or ‘for my throat’) below. Incredibly, some of the vines here are 200 years old, making them among the oldest in the world.

Close to the coast, this is a cool-climate region that receives sufficient rain for dry-farmed vineyards, unusual in Chile. Itata was and is a very poor region, inhabited by small farmers who practise mixed farming, with corn, tomatoes, pumpkins and fruit all growing alongside the vines. The vines are completely untrained, and flop along the soil, radically different from the neat manicured rows usually found in vineyards. Poverty aside, it is a delightful region, with picturesque rolling hills and forests. The best soils are granite, “very beautiful soils”, says Parra, a highly-regarded expert in wine geology.

Clos des Fous is not alone in the region. Roberto Henríquez, a recent visitor to Ireland, is a local boy, who travelled the world making wine before returning home to neighbouring Bío-Bío, where he produces some fascinating natural wines. The larger companies, including de Martino, Torres and Concha y Toro also offer wines from the region.

I have written about in glowing terms both white and red wines from Itata before. The reds are light and refreshing with crunchy, cool red fruits; think of a cross between Loire cabernet and beaujolais. The whites vary in style but the muscat-based wines tend to be floral, with succulent crisp dry fruits; well worth trying out if you enjoy sauvignon blanc. For a while Marks & Spencer stocked a very good example for a bargain €15. Sadly this has been withdrawn. But do look out for some of Chile’s newest wines, made from some of the oldest vines.

 

Clos des Fous “Pour ma Gueule” 2017, Itata valley
14 per cent, €19.99
A blend of cinsault, país and carignan, this is a very moreish, lightly grippy wine with crunchy fresh red-berry fruits. By itself, with cold meats or ham with parsley sauce.
From Blackrock Cellar, Co Dublin; wineonline.ie; Grapevine, Dalkey, Co Dublin; Martin’s off-licence, Clontarf, Dublin 3

Montes Outer Limits “Old Roots” cinsault 2018, Itata
13.5 per cent, €23.99
Floral, with vibrant mouth-watering pure black fruits, subtle notes of spice, and a sappy dry finish. A very versatile wine that would suit salmon, tuna, cold meats or lighter cheeses.
From Blackrock Cellar, Co Dublin; Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4; wineonline.ie; Michael’s, Mount Merrion, Co Dublin

Rivera del Notro 2017, Itata, Roberto Henríquez
12 per cent, €24
A very engaging, gently perfumed “vin de soif” that mixes nicely textured plump orange and pear fruits with a reviving mineral acidity and a long dry finish. By itself or with grilled sea bass or bream.
From Loose Canon, Drury Street, Dublin 2; Green Man Wines, Terenure, Dublin 6; Blackrock Cellar, Co Dublin; Coach House, Ballinteer, Dublin 16

Volcánico País 2018, A los Viñateros Bravos, Itata
12.5 per cent, €22.95
Light and juicy, with captivating dark fruits, an earthy, herbal touch and fine grippy tannins on the finish. With posh sausages served with green lentils.
From Blackrock Cellar, Co Dublin; Green Man Wines, Terenure, Dublin 6; Fallon & Byrne, Exchequer Street, Dublin 2

 

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The perfect wines to go with your Easter roast lamb

Easter parade: as lamb is one of the most wine-friendly meats of all, this is the time to show off your finest reds

First published in The Irish Times on Saturday 13th April, 2019

Easter is my favourite annual festival. The longer, brighter days have arrived, the spring bulbs are in full bloom, and we have the promise of summer and sun ahead – even if they later fail to appear.

Easter is all about hope. It also allows me to indulge in some of my favourite wines. As lamb is one of the most wine-friendly meats of all, this is the time to show off your finest red wines. Tradition would dictate a Bordeaux or Rioja Reserva, but just about any red wine will taste better alongside roast lamb of some kind. However, it is worth trying to match your wine to the kind of lamb you will be serving.

There are few nicer ways to celebrate the arrival of spring than a roast of delicate, pink new season lamb with lots of herbs, served with new potatoes and fresh seasonal vegetables. Easter is late this year, so we may be able to find some asparagus and early salads. Here I would go for a Rioja, but a Crianza or an unoaked Joven in preference to a Reserva or Gran Reserva, or possibly a Cru Beaujolais.

I suspect many of us will be tucking in to a leg of lamb, medium rare, studded with garlic and rosemary. With this, a good Bordeaux, such as the two below, would be ideal, or a Rioja Reserva or Gran Reserva. A good Cabernet from California or Australia would also fit the bill nicely.

Lovers of Italian wine should had straight to Chianti Classico – the Isole e Olena, Fontodi or Monteraponi (€30 to €33 from independents), all tasted recently, would make the meal special. I am not a fan of cheap Chianti, though; I would much prefer the Sangiovese below, a much better bet if you’re looking for something less expensive.

You could go for any of the above options, but a lighter, fruitier wine, such a New World Pinot Noir, possibly from New Zealand, or Mencía from northern Spain, would be excellent.

Careful with the mint sauce, though: the combination of sweetness and acidity, especially vinegar, doesn’t do wine any favours. At least make sure you take a mouthful of meat between sauce and wine.

These days we are all familiar with spicier, Mediterranean-style lamb. If you have a vegetarian or vegan to please, serve your lamb with a Lebanese fattoush salad or go Moroccan, with spicy lamb served with roast peppers, aubergines and harissa-spiked hummus. This calls for bigger, spicier reds; think of a Languedoc, a southern Rhône or an Aussie Shiraz.

Château Janoy Bellevue 2017, Bordeaux
13.5%, €10.95 (down from €15.95)
A very enjoyable light, elegant Bordeaux with refined, cool plum fruits and well-integrated light tannins on the finish. Great value for money. Whelehans Wines, in Loughlinstown in Dublin, has the superior 2015 vintage of the same wine for €14.50.
From O’Briens, obrienswine.ie

Sangiovese 2017, IGT Marche, Cantina dei Colli Ripani (organic, vegan)
12.5%, €14.95 to 15.99
A very happy wine brimming with delicious juicy dark cherry fruits, and a little bit of grip on the finish to make it a perfect food wine. With lighter lamb dishes.
From La Touche, Greystones, Co Wicklow, latouchewines4u.ie; Green Man Wines, Terenure, Dublin 6,greenmanwines.ie; the Little Green Grocer, Kilkenny,thelittlegreengrocer.ie; Kellys, Clontarf, Dublin, kellysofflicence.ie; Ardkeen Quality Foodstore, Waterford, Ardkeen.com.

Eggo Tinto de Tiza Malbec 2016, Zorzal
14%, €25
Your Easter egg? Concrete eggs are all the rage in wineries these days; this superb unoaked wine, with its fresh, deep, dark loganberry fruits, would go well with all sorts of roast lamb.
From La Touche, Greystones, Co Wicklow, latouchewines4u.ie; Green Man Wines, Terenure, Dublin 6, greenmanwines.ie; Blackrock Cellar, Co Dublin, blackrockcellar.com; Clontarf Wines, Dublin, clontarfwines.ie.

Château Tour Sieujean 2012, Cru Bourgeois, Paulliac
13%, €35
Classic Bordeaux with developing notes of tobacco leaf and black pepper, cool blackcurrant fruits, and a long dry finish. Perfect for that posh Easter celebration.
From Whelehans Wines, Loughlinstown, Co Dublin whelehanswines.ie

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