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Four wines to try if Dry January is not for you

Cepa Lebrel Rioja, Campaneo Old Vines Garnacha, Laurent Miquel Albarino and Exquisite Collection Wairarapa Pinot Noir.

First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 4th January, 2020

We are fast approaching Blue Monday, the day many believe to be the worst of the year, when credit card bills must be paid, diets have failed, the days still don’t seem any longer and the weather is still miserable.

If dry January is not for you, and your credit facilities are maxed out, this week I bring you four widely available wines, all costing €10 or less. I have been lukewarm about inexpensive supermarket wines before, but these four offer genuinely great value for money.

As well as producing some of the most exciting wines around, Spain is a ready source of great glugging wines at very reasonable prices. In addition to the Garnacha and Rioja here. O’Briens has the ever reliable Protocolo, currently €10.95, but often on offer at a bargain €9.95. Most independents should have a well-priced Tempranillo, Garnacha or possibly Bobal from the centre of Spain, an area that produces massive quantities of wine, often at bargain prices.

Cheap Rioja can be awful and I generally avoid it, but the unoaked Cepa Lebrel Joven included here is an exception; I prefer it to the more expensive Cepa Lebrel Reserva and Gran Reserva. I bought my bottle for €5.99 before Christmas, but the price has returned to €7.55 now. You won’t mistake it for that fine Rioja you splurged out on for Christmas, but it really offers great value. In general, I am a big fan of unoaked Rioja. Some of the better producers make lovely clean elegant wines, but you will need to visit your independent wine merchant for these.

Laurent Miquel and his Irish wife Neasa planted Albariño vines in their high-altitude vineyard in the wilds of Corbières in the Languedoc. These were and probably still are the only Albariño vines in France. The wines were always good but have been improving every year. At €10, they represent a real bargain, less expensive than most Rías Baixas, the home of Albariño.

Until recently you had to look hard to find a Pinot Noir that didn’t cost a fortune. But first Chile and now Romania and New Zealand are producing very tasty wines at prices that are very affordable.

O’Briens Romanian Wildflower Pinot Noir is currently €9. The Aldi Exquisite New Zealand Pinot Noir (they also have a very decent Australian Pinot) used to come from Marlborough, New Zealand’s largest wine producing region, but last year it switched to Wairarapa. Wairarapa is less well-known than Marlborough, but the wines, red and white, can be every bit as good, and the Pinots better.

Cepa Lebrel Rioja Joven 2018
Cepa Lebrel Rioja Joven 2018

Cepa Lebrel Rioja Joven 2018
13%, €7.55
Light and juicy with clean damson and dark cherry fruits. Refreshing acidity and free of tannins. Try it with pork or chicken dishes.

From Lidl, lidl.ie

Campaneo Old Vines Garnacha 2017, Campo de Borja 
Campaneo Old Vines Garnacha 2017, Campo de Borja 

Campaneo Old Vines Garnacha 2017, Campo de Borja 
14%, €8
Medium to full-bodied with spice, milk chocolate and smooth dark fruits. Try it with red meats; a steak or lamb casserole.

From Tesco, tesco.ie 

Laurent Miquel Albariño 2018, IGP Aude
Laurent Miquel Albariño 2018, IGP Aude

Laurent Miquel Albariño 2018, IGP Aude
13%, €10
Zesty citrus aromas, with toothsome elegant pear fruits and a crisp dry finish. Drink it solo, with shellfish or simply cooked white fish.

From Dunnes Stores, dunnesstores.com

Exquisite Collection Pinot Noir 2018, Wairarapa, New Zealand
Exquisite Collection Pinot Noir 2018, Wairarapa, New Zealand

Exquisite Collection Pinot Noir 2018, Wairarapa, New Zealand
13%, €9.99
Light, vivid black cherry and damson fruits with a nice refreshing backbone. Perfect with tuna, salmon, or roast duck.

From Aldi, aldi.ie

 

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Four fantastic wines to go with your Christmas dinner

Christmas dinner wines: Muga Rioja Blanco; Les Deux Cols; Château Perron; and Greywacke Pinot Noir

First published in the Irish Times, Saturday 14th December, 2019

What to drink with turkey? It is not too difficult, really. If you are a white-wine drinker, go for a fairly rich, full-bodied oaked Chardonnay or similar style of wine, either from its home territory, in Burgundy, or possibly from New Zealand or Australia.

I tasted the lightly oaked Muga Blanco Rioja (€13.99-€14.99, below) a few weeks ago and couldn’t believe how good it was; wines of this quality usually cost more than €20. This would also go very nicely with smoked salmon and other richer seafood dishes. For an alternative, try a Godello from Valdeorras, or a rich Chenin Blanc from South Africa.

 If your budget is generous, start proceedings with a glass of Champagne. Otherwise, Marks & Spencer Cava Brut NV (€10.50) or Tuffeau Blanc de Blancs Nature (independents, about €20) will certainly help kick-start the celebrations. To go with fishy starters, serve a Rías Baixas from Spain (O’Briens has the succulent Lagar de Costa Albariño for €16.96, currently down from €19.95).

If you prefer red wine with your turkey, a fruity Beaujolais, a Pinot Noir (including Burgundy) or a mature Bordeaux would all do nicely. If you enjoy Spanish wines, you could try a Rioja crianza, reserva or gran reserva, or, if you are feeling adventurous, a Garnacha from DO Madrid, or a Mencía, from northwest Spain.

If your preferences run to fuller-bodied wines, a southern Rhône (including Châteauneuf-du-Pape) or a rich Barossa Valley Shiraz will go well with turkey as well as with any rich stuffings.

Over the past few years I have ended up serving a good red Burgundy. Pinot Noir goes really well with turkey, goose and ham provided you steer clear of the cranberry sauce, which is not kind to any sort of wine. I have also enjoyed some pure Syrah from the northern Rhône.

This year I may well try either the Greywacke Pinot Noir or the excellent Chemin des Fonts, both of which feature below. In fact, the same producer’s Zephyr would do very nicely as a white wine if you wanted to try something different.

If you are entertaining a crowd, Aldi Exquisite Collection Pinot Noir (€9.99) or Aldi Côtes du Rhône Signargues (€8.99) will put a smile on everyone’s face. Also, Molloy’s Liquor Stores have a good selection of inexpensive Côtes du Rhônes on offer at the moment.

Alternatively, watch out for the keenly priced Cune Rioja Crianza (€11.50 from SuperValu, Dunnes Stores and Tesco), which is great with turkey, beef or goose.

With the Christmas pudding, offer a modest serving of tawny port; even those who profess to dislike port may suddenly change their mind.

Whatever wines you choose, make sure you have decent wine glasses, plenty of water to hand, and an alcohol-free option for those driving.

Muga Rioja Blanco 2018, Bodegas Muga, 13%, €13.99-€14.99
Lively apple and nectarine fruits with light toasty notes, refreshing citrus acidity and a crisp, dry finish.
From Donnybrook Fair, donnybrookfair.ie; Morton’s, Dublin 6, mortons.ie; Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4, baggotstreetwines.com; Kilcavan Stores, Gorey, Co Wexford

Chemin des Fonts 2018, Les Deux Cols, Côtes du Rhône, 14.5%, €28.50
A very refined glass of wine, with lifted aromas of spice, dark fruits and liquorice; the palate is silky-smooth, with plum fruits, black olives and a lingering finish. An excellent all-rounder that would be perfect with turkey, beef or duck.
From Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, Co Dublin, jusdevine.ie; Searsons, Monkstown, Co Dublin, searsons.com; Deveney’s, Dundrum, Dublin 16; Ely 64, Glasthule, Co Dublin, ely64.com; siyps.com; Avoca, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, and Rathcoole, Co Dublin, avoca.com; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6, greenmanwines.ie; Drinkstore, Dublin 7, drinkstore.ie

Château Perron 2016, Lalande-de-Pomerol, 13%, €28.95
A finely balanced, refined Bordeaux with clean damson fruits, a touch of dark chocolate and light tannins on the finish. One to serve with a roast of beef or goose.
From Mitchell & Son, Dublin 1, Sandycove, Co Dublin, and Avoca, Kilmacanogue, Co Wicklow, and Dunboyne, Co Meath, mitchellandson.com; Worldwide Wines, Waterford, worldwidewines.ie

Greywacke Pinot Noir 2016, Marlborough, 13.5%, €42.99
A medium-bodied wine with concentrated, ripe sweet-sour dark-cherry fruits, subtle spices and herbs. This will happily partner turkey, duck or goose.
From Ely 64, Glasthule, Co Dublin, ely64.com; the Corkscrew, Dublin 2, thecorkscrew.ie; Ely Wine Store, Maynooth, Co Kildare, elywinebar.ie; Fresh branches, freshthegoodfoodmarket.ie; Martin’s Off Licence, Dublin 3, martinsofflicence.ie; wineonline.ie

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Umbrella Rides The Wind

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Hip Young Woman

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Young Man In The City

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A Monk Walks His Path

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A Stylish Stud

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The Masked Model

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Wise Old Man

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Beautiful Eyes

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