Muscadet is so much more interesting than Picpoul de Pinet, often called the Muscadet of the south, and currently very fashionable. Picpoul is a good crisp dry white wine. In the hands of a clever winemaker, it can be a little better than that, but most of those on offer come from one large producer. Muscadet on the other hand, is also be light, crisp and dry, but it can offer so much more. The really good ones (which sadly cost over €15) have a depth and complexity you will never find in a Picpoul. The Chauvinière is made by one of the best growers in the region. It has a lovely leesy touch, some lemon zest, and delicious light apple fruits. Perfect summer drinking, and great value for money.
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Faugères is one of the lesser-known parts of the Languedoc in the south of France. The secret to the wines here lies in the ground. Parts of the region have deep schist soils that produce wines with a seductive perfumed savoury fruit, accompanied by a freshness that makes you want to take another sip. The wines are typically a blend of Carignan, Syrah and Grenache. The Les Collines is a very well-priced accessible wine. Ripe savoury red supple fruits with an appealing freshness. Try with barbecued lamb.
Clean waxy yellow apple fruit with plenty of aroma and verve. Great value at €11.79 too.
A good all-rounder to drink with fish, seafood and lighter pasta dishes, as well as white meats.
Down in southwest France, in a large area that includes Bordeaux and Bergerac, they have always done things slightly differently. Here Sauvignon Blanc is always blended with Sémillon, a lesser known and very underrated grape variety. Sauvignon is fresh and crisp, whereas Sémillon is lower in acidity and broader in the palate. Blend the two together and you get the perfect combination, often much more interesting than a plain Sauvignon. This week’s wine, from Marks & Spencer, is a mix of 80% Sauvignon and 20% Sémillon from Bergerac.
The addition of 14% Cabernet Franc gives this medium-bodied wine a lovely savoury, slightly tannic bite, a nice contrast to the ripe blackcurrant fruits.
Perfect with your steak, or any other grilled red meat.
Susana Balbo is one of the leading winemakers of Argentina. For this wine she used grapes grown in Tupungato, part of the cooler Uco Valley south of Mendoza. The wines tend to be a little more perfumed and elegant.
We know our Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, and some even Riesling, but how many of you have tried out Chenin Blanc? This is one of the world’s great white grapes, producing excellent long-lived wines, mainly in the Loire Valley and South Africa. Some are very sweet, others bone dry. This attractive very well-priced version has lovely clean peach and apple fruits with good crisp acidity, and a slightly off-dry finish. Perfect summer drinking at a great price.
Every year, the Spanish seem to rediscover a long-lost grape variety. If you haven’t heard of the Prieto Picudo grape before, don’t worry; very few wine anoraks have either. I seem to remember trying a few very rough versions a year or two ago, but couldn’t swear to it. Then this very attractive wine landed on my doorstep. The grape is indigenous to the León region in north-west Spain. The wine is savoury with liquorice and plump dark fruits with a very pleasant freshness. Well worth looking out for.
I have featured this before I think, but this is one of my favourite white wines, made by Englishman James Kinglake at his domaine, high in the hills above Carcassonne. The blend of Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc works really well; the latter giving it a lovely zestiness, and the former pristine rounded green apple fruits. Think really good Chablis, but at half the price. Perfect on its own or with seafood, salads and summery recipes. Begude also produce a really good value Pinot Noir, also available from O’Briens.
When making notes at wine tastings I have a personal shorthand. W.M.D.W.W. means well made dry white wine, O/O.O/A.O/E. is for over-oaked, too much alcohol and over extracted. O.D.C. signifies ordinary decent claret (as opposed to ordinary decent criminal), for a particular kind of red wine from Bordeaux. These are light to medium bodied wines, with just ripe blackcurrant and blackberry fruits, with a refreshing acidity and a dryish finish. I love them; they are great all-purpose wines to go with red and white meats, including stews and cheese dishes. The ordinary bit means they have to sell for less than €15. The Guillebot Plaisance fits all the above criteria, and is even light enough to sip solo.
It is what made Chile famous in the first place; inexpensive Cabernet Sauvignon. We Irish fell in love with it many years ago, and still cannot get enough. Back then we were used to drinking Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux. The Chilean version was a little riper and more full-bodied. It was also much cheaper and a lot more consistent. The Torres version is a classic. Medium-bodied ripe plums, blackcurrant and cassis with good acidity and a nice structure. Perfect with roast red meats or grilled pork chops.
Viña Esmeralda 2014, Catalunya
€13.95 from independent off-licences
The first time I tried this wine I was sitting outside a tapas bar in London on a very warm summer evening. I was completely won over. The crafty blend of Moscatel and Gewürztraminer is a winning combination. This is quintessential summer wine; fragrant and floral, with succulent pears, grapes and lychees. It has just enough refreshing acidity to balance out the rounded finish. Try it, sitting outside, as soon as the next fine evening comes along, by itself or, even better, with a plate a prawns.