First publised in The Irish Times, Saturday 13th July, 2019.
This week we celebrate the French National holiday with four of the best-known names in French wine. At their best, all offer excellent everyday drinking.
There are few things so quintessentially French as a glass of fresh, fruity Beaujolais accompanied by a crusty baguette, a hunk of cheese, a few slices of ham, rosette salami and a nice green salad. In many ways Beaujolais has it all. The region is picturesque, with rolling verdant hills and quaint old villages. The wine scores at most levels too; good basic Beaujolais is a delight. Beaujoalis Villages is even better; light in alcohol and filled with crunchy fresh fruits. It is summer in a glass. In the late 20th and early 21st century, the region lost its way a bit. Spurred on by one or two critics, a few large producers began ramping up the alcohol (largely by adding sugar) and created big, over-extracted monsters that bore little resemblance to the real thing. It is perhaps not surprising that the natural wine movement – small producers farming biodynamically, and making low-interventionist wines, started in Beaujolais. Today, quality at every level has never been higher.
Further south, the Southern Rhône valley produces massive quantities of decent glugging wine. Every supermarket offers one or more, usually at less than €10 and most are very drinkable. Spend a few euro more and you will find some great wines. Like Beaujolais, Côtes du Rhône goes well with many foods, although more substantial recipes work better. I brought a bottle of the Côtes du Rhône on this page to an Indian BYOB restaurant (the lovely 3 Leaves in Blackrock) and it went perfectly with a wide variety of lightly spicy meat and vegetarian dishes. If you plan on firing up the barbecue this weekend, it will cover all of the meat options.
I cannot think about Muscadet without shellfish. I salivate at the thought of a large plate of oysters, a bowl of moules, or a pile of prawns to be picked through, with a glass of lightly chilled Muscadet on hand at all times. As with Beaujolais, the quality of Muscadet has shot up in recent years, and prices have not always kept pace. Dunnes Stores (€10.50), O’Briens (€14.95/€11.95) and SuperValu (€10) are all worth trying out too.
Our image of Bordeaux is of the beautiful large châteaux of the famous Médoc region. At the top end, Bordeaux produces some of the finest and most expensive wines in the world. But that represents a tiny part of total production. The rest is made up of small farmers producing lightly fruity wines, with good acidity and a dryness on the finish. They go perfectly with your Sunday roast, chicken, lamb or beef, as well as pork and lamb chops.
Château Roc de Villepreux 2016, Bordeaux Supérieur (Organic)
Light, smooth, easy red fruits with a nice herbaceous edge. This would be great with grilled lamb chops and roasted peppers.
From Dunnes Stores, dunnesstores.com
Beaujolais ‘69’ 2015, Christophe Coquard
Arm yourself with a crusty baguette, some quality charcuterie and a hunk of cheese; sit out in the garden and enjoy with a cool glass of this lip-smacking light Beaujolais, with its bouncy summer fruits.
From Grapevine, Dalkey, Co Dublin, onthegrapevine.ie; First Draft Coffee & Wine, Dublin 8, firstdraftcoffeandwine.com;stationtostationwine.com; the Coach House, Dublin 16, thecoachhouseofflicence.ie; the Vintry, Dublin 6, vintry.ie
Côtes du Rhône Saint-Esprit 2017, Delas
A rich, rounded, svelte Côtes du Rhône with smooth dark fruits; as well as the Indian food above, I enjoyed a bottle with rare fillet steak, freshly dug spuds and salad, followed by some Comté cheese.
From 1601 Off-licence, Kinsale, Co Cork; Shiel’s Londis, Malahide, Co Dublin; Donnybrook Fair, Dublin 4, donnybrookfair.ie; Grapevine, Dalkey, Co Dublin, onthegrapevine.ie; O’Neills, D8; Ballyvaughan Village Stores, Co Clare; the Corkscrew, Dublin 2, thecorkscrew.ie; Coolers, Swords, Co Dublin; the Grape Vine, Dublin 9; Higgins, Dublin 14; higginsofflicence.ie; Kellys, Dublin 3, kellysofflicence.ie; the Malt House, Trim, Co Meath; Ennis Gourmet Store, Co Clare, ennisgourmet.com; Rineys Off Licence, Sneem, Co Kerry; Molloy’s Liquor Stores, molloys.ie.
Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine sur Lie, La Louvetrie 2018, Organic
What could be better than a plate of oysters or a handful of prawns with homemade garlic mayonnaise, accompanied by this delicious fresh, vibrant, fruit-filled Muscadet?
From Wines Direct, Mullingar and Arnotts, Dublin 1, winesdirect.ie