Atlântico 2015, VR Alentejano, Portugal
€9.99 from Fresh Stores.
Fragrant, with plump rounded plum and red cherry fruits and a smooth finish. You cannot ask for more at this price.
Dangerously easy to drink and perfect for large gatherings and parties.
The label is a painting, showing the famous Number 28 yellow tram of Lisbon in the distance. This which may seem familiar to some of you; O’Briens have their Porta 6, a Portuguese red wine, featuring the same vehicle, that flies out when it is promoted at around €10 a bottle – the wine that is, not the tram. This wine is made by a different producer, but has a certain similarity in style. Apparently this is the best selling wine in all five Fresh stores.
Colinas del Itata Old Vine Field Blend Muscat Corinto 2014, Chile
€14.99 from Marks & Spencer
This blend of Muscat and the unknown Corinto grape is exotic and intensely perfumed, with intriguing spicy fruit and a dry finish. Lovely wine.
Drink as an aperitif or with lighter salads. Perfect on a summer’s evening.
New World should mean new, right? Yet this wine is made from a vineyard that is no less than 110 years old, from a region where grapes have been grown since 1551. Some of the first settlers (or invaders really) planted vines in Itata, 500 kilometres south of what is now Santiago. They needed wine for the Sacrament. In recent years, a small group of producers rediscovered the ancient dry-farmed vines in this region, and have started to make some very exciting wines. This is a lovely wine, and a fascinating piece of history for just €15.
Fratelli Barba Trebbiano d’Abruzzo Colle Morino 2015
€14 from Sheridans Cheesemongers.
Light – a mere 12% – and refreshing with clean pear fruits and a dry finish. It is so much better than most of the confected sub €10 Pinot Grigio on the market and worth the €14 price tag.
It is not often anyone gets excited about a Trebbiano from the Abruzzo. The grape variety is renowned for tasting of very little, and yields in the Abruzzo tend to be high, further stretching any available flavour. I cannot pretend that this is a brilliant life-changing wine; it did however make for very pleasant drinking on a summer’s evening.
Nero d’Avola 2014, Sicilia, Feudo Arancio
€15 from Wilde & Green; Rua, Castlebar; Mitchell & Son, chq, Sandycove & Avoca, Kilmacanogue.
Seductive rounded juicy ripe dark fruits with a smooth finish.
A good all-rounder to partner most roast or grilled red meats.
Fuedo Arancio is owned by Mezzacorona, a large company based in Trentino, right up in the north-east of Italy. I have always been very fond of the Fuedo Arancio red wines; the Syrah, at the same price as the wine above is usually very good value. Nero d’Avola is a grape native to Sicily. Ten years ago, it was seen by many as the best the region could offer. The wines tended to be big, oaky and alcoholic. Then along came Nerello Mascalese and Frappato, two varieties that produced more elegant wines, and Nero d’Avola got lost along the way. However, provided the winemaker doesn’t try too hard, they can make very good, balanced fruit-filled wines. As with the wine above.
Domaine de la Chauvinière, Muscadet de Sèvre & Maine Sur Lie 2014
€13.95 (2nd bottle ½ price) from O’Briens
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.
Les Collines 2013, Faugères, Domaine Ollier Taillefer
€14.85 from Wines Direct, Mullingar & Arnott’s, Dublin
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.
Bergerac Blanc 2015, Mayne de Beauregard.
€11.79 from Marks & Spencer
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.
Dominio del Plata Terroir Series Malbec Cabernet Franc 2015
€15.99 from Marks & Spencer
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.
Bougrier Les Hauts Lieux Chenin Blanc 2015, Vin de France
€13.95 from O’Briens
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.
Pardevalles Prieto Picudo 2015, Tierra de León.
€15 from Clontarf Wine, 64wine and the Corkscrew.
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.