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Drink Like a Dane

Between Christmas and the New Year, my Danish mother-in-law invites us to a Danish lunch. This is not an Irish-style sandwiches and soup affair, nor is it some Noma-influenced series of sprays, foams, smoke, crumbs and pyrotechnics.The Danish lunch is a precision event that slowly winds its way through a long afternoon. It begins with various flavours of herring, before moving on to other seafood, then to the meat course (liver pâté, duck, cold roast pork with crackling, and a host of accompaniments), finally finishing with cheese.Rye bread is served with each course, as is beer, a lager or brown beer, and akvavit.

Akvavit is a festive spirit, drunk throughout the year at weddings, birthday parties, and other celebrations. The Swedes drink it on midsummer’s eve, or with crayfish. They prefer fennel as a flavouring, the Norwegians caraway. The Norwegians also sometimes send their akvavit across the equator twice (like Madeira) to produce an oak-aged version. However, caraway- flavoured Aalborg taffel akvavit is the Danish market leader, and is my favourite. Aalborg also produce Jubilaeums, aged in oak and flavoured with dill and coriander, created in 1946 to celebrate the centenary of the taffel akvavit, and other versions too. In addition, the company releases a special edition bottle every Christmas, that is eagerly sought by collectors. Akvavit should be served from the freezer in small schnaps glasses. It is the perfect accompaniment to herring, cutting through the oiliness with a spice-infused hit.

It is not easy to find Aalborg, or any other akvavit, in Ireland. Even the Danish Embassy failed to unearth a source. Redmonds of Ranelagh and the Celtic Whiskey Shop both have the Jubilaeums for around €50. Travel retail might be the best option. There are a few suggestions online for cocktails made with akvavit. Treat these with the contempt they deserve.

To enjoy your own Danish experience place your akvavit in the freezer. Put some good quality beer in the fridge. Buy a few jars of sild (herring) in Ikea; the dill one is my favourite, but all are acceptable. Mix some Atlantic prawns with a dill mayonnaise. Buy some firm, thinly-sliced rye bread. With a glass of cool beer and some chilled akvavit, you are all set. You could serve some smooth liver pâté, with beetroot, hard-boiled eggs, and maybe some leftover roast pork. Just make sure you have plenty of time and some good company.

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September Supermarket Wine Sales

September Supermarket Wine Sales

First published in The Irish Times Saturday 20th August

Around this time of year, the multiples start their autumn wine sales. Among all the half-priced wines and other bogus offers, this year there are some genuine bargains. SuperValu could claim to be the originator of the autumn French wine sale, but in recent years, it has been Lidl leading the charge with a well-chosen list of goodies, targeting the middle-class wine drinker. This year the Lidl range is tighter, with 50 wines on offer, but there is plenty to choose from. The sale starts on September 12th. Aldi has taken Lidl on this year with a World Wine Festival, starting on August 21st.

From Alsace, Lidl has three very tasty wines, the floral, fruity Sylvaner 2015 (€8.99, a great aperitif wine), the pleasantly fruity Ernest Wein Riesling 2015 (€9.99) and the more serious, waxy, honeyed Riesling Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergbeiten (€12.99). My star white was the delicious crisp dry Sauvignon Blanc, Adrien Marechal Reuilly 2015 (€14.99).

In Beaujolais, 2015 was a great vintage and the Mignot Fleurie from that year is a steal at €10.99. Burgundy lovers can chose from the chunky, fruit-filled Ladoix (€15.99), although bargain-hunters might be better advised to go for the light, clean Les Chanussots Hautes-Côtes de Nuits (€10.99). Moving on to Bordeaux, the Château de Rousselet Côtes de Bourg (€9.99) offers fantastic value, as do the Château Lalande Mausse, Fronsac 2013 (€9.99) and the Château le Bourdillot 2012 (€10.99) and the classic, tannic Médoc Cru Bourgeois Château Pey de Pont 2012 (€11.99).Moving up in price, hedonists will go for the lush, oaky Virginie de Valandraud 2014 (€32.99), but I would be delighted to have some of the very impressive Château de la Dauphine 2011, at a very competitive €24.99, in my cellar.

Aldi has the excellent crisp, dry Grüner Veltliner Ried Seiber from Austria at an unbelievably cheap €8.99. In the reds, they have two amazingly inexpensive Pinots Noirs, the light, fragrant Fritz Keller 2014 from Germany for €9.99 and the richer, fruitier de Bertoli Yarra Valley GS from Australia for €10.99. Another must-buy is the Nikau Point Syrah from Hawke’s Bay, a steal at €9.99. Bordeaux-lovers should seek out the elegant dry Gloria Douro Reserva , €8.99.

SuperValu will have over 100 French wines on offer as well as twenty new French wines in their French Wine sale, starting September 1st. From these I would go for the following; the light, fresh La Petite Perrière Sauvignon Blanc 2015, and the red equivalent, La Petite Perrière Pinot Noir 2015, (both €9), also light, with subtle dark cherry fruits and vanilla.

Image 4Ch. de la Dauphine 2011, Fronsac, Bordeaux

Structured, concentrated cassis and blackcurrants with a dry finish. Decant now and enjoy or keep a year or two.

Stockists: Lidl

NikauPointReserveNikau Point Syrah 2014, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand

Delicious light savoury peppery dark cherry fruits. Try it with cumin-scented grilled lamb chops.

Stockists: Aldi

ImageLa Petite Perrière Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Vin de France

Lively refreshing plump green fruits. A good everyday all-purpose Sauvignon to drink solo or with salads.

Stockists: SuperValu

Bargain Wine

Image 3Fleurie Mignot 2015

Delightful fresh fruit-filled Beaujolais; drink solo or with ham and other pork dishes.

Stockists: Lidl

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Alsace Riesling

IMG_5385First published in the Irish Times Saturday August 13th, 2016

A recent trip to Alsace reignited my love for the wines of this region. And for the food too, although I suspect after a few weeks spent consuming all of that hearty fare, I might require a gastric bypass.

At one time, Alsace was unique among appellation contrôlée wines of France as the only one permitted to display the grape variety on the label. This was a nod towards its Germanic traditions. The grapes, too, sometimes have a German parentage. This is the only part of France permitted to grow Riesling. In addition, you will find Sylvaner and Gewürztraminer, both popular over the border, alongside Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois.I enjoy a glass of summery Sylvaner, and tasted one on my trip, courtesy of our host, Lidl, which will offer it at a very competitive price (around €8-€9) in their forthcoming French Wine Sale, starting on September 12th. Alsace produces a variety of white wines from these six grapes and some improving reds, and the occasional rosé, from Pinot Noir. Crémant, the sparkling wine of Alsace, is big business these days. Made by the same process as Champagne, they can be very good.

However, Riesling is the king of Alsace. The best wines have an amazing combination of freshness and power, a steely austerity combined with a richness of fruit. They can be drunk young, or aged for a decade or more. They partner brilliantly with food, and not just fish. In this part of the world, all of those pork and chicken dishes are routinely served with Riesling. Alsace Riesling tends to be more substantial and drier than the German versions. I was surprised how difficult it was to find a decent bottle of Alsace Riesling in shops here. There is certainly no shortage of good wines being imported, but possibly they are not an easy sell. You won’t find much under €15, but there are some great wines in the €15-€25 category.

I have always been a huge fan of the Trimbach Cuvée Frédéric Émile Riesling (around €50 a bottle) and should you come across a bottle of the Trimbach Clos Sainte Hune, you could treat yourself to one of France’s greatest wines. You will require a healthy wallet though; it sells for more than €100 a bottle. But the basic Trimbach Riesling, (€19.50, widely available), is one of the best-value white wines on the market.

Other names to seek out include Hugel, Sipp Mack, Schlumberger, Zinck, Zind-Humbrecht, Weinbach, René Muré, Meyer-Fonné, all from independents. Look out for anything from the two leading co-operatives, the Cave de Turckheim and the Cave de Hunawihr.

DSCF6855Riesling Réserve 2014, Cave Vinicole de Hunawihr, Alsace

Lovely lively fresh Riesling with crisp green apple and pear fruits. Nice wine.

Stockists: Clontarf Wines; World Wide Wines, Waterford.

DSCF6863Kreydenweiss Riesling Andlau 2013, Alsace, Biodynamic

Delightful fresh youthful floral aromas and generous green fruits, finishing bone dry.

Stockist: O’Briens

DSCF6851Trimbach Riesling Réserve 2010, Alsace

A glorious maturing Riesling boasting honeyed toasted fruits with a steely backbone and dry finish.

Stockists: Donnybrook Fair; Jus de Vine.

Bargain Wine-

ImageHugel Gentil 2014, Alsace

A blend of all five Alsace white varieties; attractive soft easy peaches and pears with a welcome cut of lime zest.

Martin’s; McHugh’s; Jus De Vine; Sweeneys; Green Man, & independents.

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Posh Picnic Wines

First published in the Irish Times, Saturday 6th August, 2016

As a child I loved eating outdoors. It didn’t matter if it was a picnic, or simply sitting outside the back door with a few sandwiches. A real picnic was always a huge excitement, packing those boxes of sandwiches, sausage rolls (essential picnic fare), bags of crisps, flasks of tea and jam tarts.

My inner child still enjoys a good picnic. Like many others, when on holiday in France, I love dropping in to the local traiteur to pick up a few salads, cold meats and pies to eat with a crusty fresh loaf and a bottle of simple red wine. I also love to eat al fresco at home. Wine-wise the (correct) advice is to go for something cheap and cheerful. But does eating outdoors have to be so casual? On several trips, I have been taken off into vineyards or up hillsides to be treated to a very posh picnic. It helps that we were in slightly warmer climates and that someone else was looking after food and transport.The most memorable was half way up a mountain with an amazing view out over the countryside, where our Catalan hosts served the classic Spanish dishes – tortilla, pan con tomate, grilled chorizo and lamb chops and salads. What made our picnic so sensational was the superb quality of every ingredient, including the delicious wine. And we were sitting outside enjoying the gentle warmth of the spring sun. We also had proper knives and forks, linen tablecloths, and even Riedel glasses.

It is of course a lot easier to eat out on your own patio or back garden. You can serve hot food, and use your best dinner-party tableware, including candelabra, to create a real sense of occasion.So, what wine do we need for our posh picnic? A good Champagne is probably essential to set the mood and get the taste buds going. With salmon, and other fish, prawns, or even lobster, a rich-ish white Burgundy would do best, or an upmarket New World Chardonnay.

Alternatives would be a Godello from Galicia or a rich Grüner Veltliner from Austria. Or you could just keep drinking Champagne. I know a lot of people see rosé as the perfect picnic wine, so maybe pink Champagne would keep everyone happy. Cold meats, pies and charcuterie call for a light red. I have covered Beaujolais and Mencía here already, and both would be ideal. If going upmarket, you could open up a good Pinot Noir, and serve it cool. Burgundy is best but, to add a little excitement, why not go for a German Spätburgunder or a Pinot Noir from Austria or New Zealand?

Charles HeidsieckCharles Heidseick Brut Réserve NV

Delightful complex rich Champagne with seamless textured toasted brioche and apricot fruits.

Stockists: Jus de Vine; Thomas’s, Foxrock; O’Briens; Redmond’s; Sweeney’s; Mitchell & Son.

ImageDomaine Begude Etolie Chardonnay 2014, Limoux

Delectable creamy medium-bodied wine with rich pear and apple fruits, with subtle grilled hazelnuts. Brilliant with salmon dishes.

Stockists: O’Briens

ImageGiant Steps Sexton Vineyard 2014, Yarra Valley

Perfumed and bursting with lush ripe sweet raspberries and red cherries.


DSCF6804La Perdrix de l’Année des Bêtes Curieuses, Muscadet sur granit 2014

Vivid and mineral, delicious flowing green fruits and a crisp finish.

Stockists: One Pery Square, Limerick; Jus de Vine; The Drink Store; La Touche, Greystones.

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Irish Wine

It takes one hundred days of sunshine to ripen grapes. As we rarely get anything like a that in this country, we cannot produce wine. And yet, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands all do just that. England has a burgeoning wine industry, winning awards for its high quality sparkling wine. Even our nearest neighbour Wales has a dozen vineyards.

Based in Lusk, in north Co. Dublin, David Llewellyn has been producing his Lusca wine since 2005. As far as I know, this is the only commercially available Irish wine, the O’Callaghans of Longueville House having decided that cider and brandy was better suited to the Irish terroir. I admit I have been dismissive of David’s wines in the past, but a recent tasting featuring five vintages of Lusca prompted a change of mind. All of the Irish wine writers were impressed, if not shocked, by the quality of the wines, one scribe even comparing them to the red wines of the Loire – high praise indeed.

A different route has been taken by Brett and Pamela Stephenson of Wicklow Way Wines. They make fruit wines. “We both love Irish food and go out of our way to buy Irish,” says Pamela. “I am very supportive of the craft beer and whiskey business, but I don’t drink either. The only thing I like to drink is wine. There was nothing there that addressed my need, so I said why not make something Irish from the lovely local produce? It took three years to get it right. The first wine is Móinéir [Irish for meadow] a strawberry wine. Apparently it takes 150 strawberries to make one bottle.“The reception has been brilliant,” says Brett. “We are thrilled how people are across all ages and gender like it. We thought it might be strawberries and ladies but it has transcended all that.” There are plans for gooseberry wine (possibly with a bit of elderflower) which should appeal to Sauvignon Blanc drinkers. I tasted a delicious blackberry and elderberry wine from the tank, as well as a lighter, fruitier blackberry and blueberry wine. They source most of their fruit from Pat Clarke in Lusk, although they are also working with Irish blackcurrants from Des Jeffares in Wexford. Brett has foraged elderflowers, elderberries and other fruits around Wicklow. “We want to use 100 per cent Irish fruit,” says Pamela. “It is a real challenge, but it is fun to make the wine and we want to do it this way.”

The process of making a fruit wine is very similar to ‘normal’ wine, and the winery looks just like a boutique winery anywhere in Europe or the New World. Already, Irish restaurants and retailers are queuing up to buy Móinéir, and abroad the latest client is Fortnum & Mason!

DSCF6637Móinéir Fine Strawberry Wine, Wicklow Way Wines

Summer in a glass; lovely ripe juicy strawberry fruits and a rounded clean finish.

Stockists: Whelehans; Grapevine; Morton’s; Parting Glass; La Touche; Lotts & Co.; Green Man.

Image 2Lusca Cabernet Merlot 2014
€44.95 per bottle ½ bottle €24.95

Leafy lightly herbal nose, with cool ripe red fruits, a touch of caramel, good acidity, and a decent finish.

Stockists: Wines on the Green; Direct (David Llewellyn 0872843879) Jus de Vine; Searsons; Green Man Wines; Bradleys.

Wiston estateWiston Estate Blanc de Blancs NV, England

Made by Irishman Dermot Sugrue, a superb refined sparkling wine with subtle brioche, ripe fruits and a steely backbone.

Stockists: Le Caveau, Bradleys; Corkscrew; World Wide Wines.

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Staying in: a three-part whiskey harmony from Jameson

Staying in: a three-part whiskey harmony from Jameson

First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 23rd July, 2016


Irish whiskey is on the up, both here and abroad. No week seems to go by without a new release. The explosion of interest has been great for the industry but it also has a downside; it has put huge pressure on stocks of aged whiskey.

In the future, it is likely that we will see fewer whiskeys with a statement of age – “10 year-old” etc – and more “NAS”, or no statement of age. Scotch is facing similar difficulties.

Over the past year or so, Jameson has released a trio of threesomes; a combination of new whiskeys, repackages or re-releases, all in smart clear glass bottles with cool retro labels. Together they represent a significant move forward for the brand, to sit alongside whiskeys with a statement of age, such as Redbreast and Yellow Spot.

The Deconstructed Series has three whiskeys, entitled Bold, Lively and Round. The idea is to show the three key characteristics of Irish whiskey. Those of you who have gone though our airports recently and visited the shops will have spotted them on sale at €36.

This is a clever way of explaining the complexities of whiskey to someone starting off on that journey. Next up is the Heritage Series, which includes Black Barrel, reviewed here a few weeks ago, Crested (no longer Crested Ten) and Signature. All have been available for a few years, but the presentation has been nicely updated.

Going towards the super premium level we have the Makers Series, a trio created by three key craftsmen: head distiller Brian Nation, head cooper Ger Buckley and head blender Billy Leighton.

“For me it was like being a kid in a sweet shop,” says Nation, “although Billy was the dad, always saying ‘no’ to everything I wanted. He is essentially the stock controller.”

The origin of the names is heritage driven. A spirit safe is a small glass container, often lined with copper that allows the distiller to analyse and sample the spirit leaving the pot still. The Distiller’s Safe is very much a spirit-driven whiskey, although it does have a wood contribution. According to Buckley, “it was very exciting to get involved with whiskey, it’s not something I would normally do. I love the sweetness of American oak, the vanilla and other spices.

“We called it the Croze, because that is the one tool I need to make a barrel. I have been using it all my life, and so did my dad.”

As for Blender’s Dog, a dog, is the small cup used to draw samples from a cask. It is an essential part of any blender’s equipment. Together the three make a fascinating new range of Irish whiskeys.

Image 2The Distiller’s Safe, Jameson

Peaches and spice on the nose; elegant creamy texture with butterscotch on the finish.

Stockists: Specialist off-licences

ImageThe Cooper’s Croze, Jameson

Sweet vanilla & toffee nose; not overly oaky, with toffee, dried fruits, toasted nuts & Oloroso sherry.

Stockists: Specialist off-licences

Image 5The Blender’s Dog, Jameson

Big, powerful and smooth, with rounded sweet toasted oak and a long spicy finish.

Stockists: Specialist off-licences


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Šipon & Slovenia

Šipon & Slovenia

IMG_2591First published in the Irish Times, Saturday 16th July, 2016

The south-east corner of Slovenia is one of the prettiest wine regions I have ever visited; rolling green hills covered in vines, forest, fields of pumpkin and maize, dotted with substantial prosperous well-maintained farmhouses, each with its own immaculate kitchen garden. The hills provide some excellent and varied sites to grow vines. The people are very friendly and open. It was a joy to walk around the narrow roads on a bright sunny June morning and very hard to leave. The default language is German. We are a twenty-minute drive from Austria and Hungary, and two minutes from Croatia; the recently erected barbed wire fence along the border lies unmanned, as the politics of refugee’s changes. In the past, the people of this area would have considered the city of Graz as their capital rather than Ljubljana.

The names are long and a bit confusing. The three main towns are Ljutomer (remember Lutomer Riesling?), Jeruzalem and Ormož. They tried calling their wine Jeruzalem, but people thought it was Israeli. Today most of the wines are labeled Štajerska, Slovenian for Styria, a much larger region. Grape varieties do not respect political borders. Many of those grown here can also be found in the neighboring countries. The majority of wines are white, although Blaufränkisch is growing in popularity and can be very good.

Šipon (pronounced Sheepon or Shipon) is better known by its Hungarian name, Furmint. It deserves far greater recognition as one of the world’s great grape varieties, responsible for Hungary’s glorious sweet Tokaji, as well as some delicious dry white wines in Austria and Slovenia as well as Hungary. Under other names, you will also find it in Croatia, Romania, and Slovakia. Mitchell & Son even have a (very good) sparkling Furmint from Ch. Dereszla in Tokaji. Dry Furmint is lightly aromatic, with wonderful bracing acidity, and attractive fruits whose flavours I find difficult to describe. It can take a bit of oak ageing, and matures very well too. It certainly goes very well with the pork dishes popular in this part of Slovenia.

I tend to run away from Gewürztraminer most of the time; it takes a skilled winemaker to balance the rich exotic honey-laden aromas and fruit with the all-important balancing acidity. The Traminer grape is a forbearer of Gewürz. Less aromatic, with succulent fruits and a lively acidity, the wines are worth looking out for, especially the Miro below. The western part of Slovenia also produces some fascinating, but very different wines, often with a distinctly Italian style. Sadly very few are available here for the moment. Slovenia is not a big producer, and their wines are in demand locally, so prices are rarely cheap. They do however offer very good value.

DSCF6718Verus Furmint (Šipon) 2014, Stajerska, Slovenia

Delicious light refreshing wine with plump honey and melon fruits.

Stockists: Cabot and Co, Westport; Grapevine,

Image 1Miro Traminec 2013, Stajerska, Slovenia

Gentle aromas of honeysuckle, dripping with honeyed ripe peach fruits.

Stockists: Cabot and Co, Westport; Grapevine, Dalkey

DSCF6715Dveri Pax Šipon Ilovic 2011, Stajerska Sloven

Aromatic, lightly smoky with delicious maturing exotic fruits, finishing dry.

Stockists: Wines on the Green, Dawson St.

Image 2Bargain Wine
1139 Dveri Pax 2015, Stajerska, Slovenia


A blend of four grapes come together to produce a vibrant fruit-filled wine. Perfect summer drinking.

Stockists: Marks & Spencer

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Pink for Summer

Pink for Summer

First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 9th July, 2016


Sales of rosé wines in this country have increased a little in recent years, but still remain stubbornly low at 4-5% of sales. This is largely made up of those drinking inexpensive sweet “white” Zinfandel all year round, and by occasional bursts of general pink drinking when the sun makes an appearance in our skies.

We drink the colour as much as the wine; there is something quintessentially summery about a rosé wine, drunk well-chilled over a lunch outside in the sun. I am constantly being told that rosé is much more than that, and we should be drinking it the year round. It is one of the most adaptable of wines, perfect with all sorts of food, but somehow I cannot bring myself to drink it on a wet January evening.

Rosé comes in more styles than one. Leaving aside the aforementioned sweet Californians, elsewhere just about every country has had a go at making rosé; ranging from light and crisp to full-bodied and sometimes fairly alcoholic. Today we concentrate on French rosé.

The lightest, which would include the Bordeaux and Provence rosé below, is very similar in makeup to a crisp dry white wine; these go very well with lighter salads, including seafood, as well as more delicate pasta and rice dishes.More fruity and full-bodied rosés can go with a wide variety of foods, including grilled or barbecued chicken and pork, all of those southern French classics with anchovies, olives, garlic and herbs. They also go nicely with cold meats, pâtés and other charcuterie. I also find they are good match with slightly spicy dishes including curries.

Much has been made of Provençal rosé, usually dry and sometimes very expensive. I have yet to be convinced that any rosé is worth €30 or more. To me it is frivolous and fun, and that means less than €20. The Domaine d’Eole below does offer very good value for money. Look out too for the Mirabeau Rosé from O’Briens, at a price that works out at €12.71 if you buy two bottles. Marks & Spencer have the very tasty Coteaux Varois en Provence 2015 for €12.49. Tavel, a small town in the southern Rhône, traditionally made the most powerful, alcoholic rosés. The appellation here is exclusively for rosé wines. They have gone out of fashion, and most of the wines are lighter, although full of fruit, as with the Tavel below. Those from the Loire tend to be light and crisp.Rosé d’Anjou is usually a bit too sweet for my tastes, but Sancerre rosé, made with Pinot Noir, can be exquisite, and certainly worth the money. Alsace also produces some beautifully fragrant Pinot Noir rosé.

DSCF6640Domaine d’Eole 2015, Coteaux d’Aix en Provence

Very attractive exuberant strawberry fruits with a dry finish. Great with or without food.

Stockists: Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown

Image 1Tavel Rose 2014, Prieuré de Montezargues

The deepest colour, with concentrated red cherry fruits. With herby Provençal salads.

Stockists: Wines on the Green; Dicey Reilly; McCabes; Nectar Wines, Nolans Supermarket.

DSCF6712Bordeaux Rosé 2015, Brande Bergère.

The palest of colours, with sour cherry and plum fruits. Delicate, dry and moreish.

Stockists: Grapevine, Dalkey.

Image 2Famille Bougrier, Les Hauts Lieux 2015 Le Rosé, Vin de France
€12.95 (2nd bottle ½ price)

Light clean refreshing summer fruits. Perfect al fresco drinking.

Stockists: O’Briens

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Three women wine writers

Three women wine writers
Alice Feiring at Litfest 2015

Alice Feiring at Litfest 2015

First published in the Irish Times, Saturday 2nd July, 2016

This week we veer right off the beaten track and celebrate three female authors who have each published a well-written book on an obscure wine region. Books on nebbiolo, vin jaune and Georgian qvevri wine are unlikely to climb the best-sellers lists. But each is a lovely read.

Alice Feiring was a fascinating and provocative speaker on natural wine at the Ballymaloe Litfest 2015. She has gone on to write a wonderful, emotional book, For the Love of Wine, about traditional winemaking in Georgia, one of the oldest wine-producing countries in the world. She explores the ancient culture of making wine in qvevri, clay amphorae, and meets up with some of the most remarkable characters making wines that sound intriguing. I would love to have included the amazing Pheasant’s Tears Saperavi as a wine of the week. The wine is macerated and fermented with stems, skins and pips in clay amphorae lined with beeswax and buried in the ground for months on end. Sadly, it has sold out completely.

The Jura has been the trendiest region in the wine bars of London and New York for several years. It produces some of the most unusual and least known (until recently) wines of France. Even the most hardened wine anorak will find it difficult to recall savagnin, poulsard and trousseau. And nowhere else in France will you find a vin jaune, the country’s answer to sherry, as well as the most extraordinary chardonnay and pinot noir. Wink Lorch, author of Jura Wine, has spent part of the year in the French Alps for two decades. Her enthusiasm and knowledge is infectious; this book really makes you want to travel there, drink the wine and eat the food too.

Jancis Robinson calls growing nebbiolo an exercise in precision engineering. In Barolo and Barbaresco: the King and Queen of Italian Wine, Kerin O’Keefe writes that, for her, barolo “was like a Fellini film; with the first sip I wasn’t quite sure what was going on but I knew I liked it, by the next sip it was starting to make sense, and by the time I finished the glass I was hooked”. Not everyone finds it so easy to love nebbiolo, which can have very high levels of tannins and acidity. It has a haunting bouquet. All are agreed that it hates to travel outside of Piedmont, and that it reaches its apogee in two small towns; Barolo and Barbaresco.

Like Feiring, O’Keefe pulls no punches, and is quite happy to criticise where she feels it is required. She has an obvious love and understanding of her subject. Her book is the definitive guide to the soils, the grapes and the growers producing these great wines.

IMG_1923Didimi Krakhuna 2013., Imereti, Georgia


Bone-dry with invigorating crisp sparky minerals and cool yellow fruits.

Stockists: Blackrock Cellar: The Corkscrew; Green Man Wines; Fallon & Byrne.

DSCF6303Barolo Le Coste di Monforte 2011, ‎Guidobono

Fragrant floral aromas with liquorice, raspberries and firm dry tannins.

Stockists: Mitchell & Son; Sheridans Cheesemongers; Grapevine; Donnybrook Fair.

ImageVin Jaune 2006, Arbois, Domaine Rolet
€51 for a 620ml bottle

Astonishing wine with tangy almonds and walnuts, cumin and a long bone dry finish. Serve lightly chilled with a good Comté.

Stockists: 64Wine, Green Man Wines, Clontarf Wines.

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Midsummer Wines – the red wines of the Loire Valley


First published in the Irish Times, Saturday 25th June, 2016

As I write, it is a beautiful bright morning, with sun streaming through the window. This being Ireland, all may have changed by the time you read this, but the last week has been dry and sunny most of the time. These days I tend to drink lighter, lower-alcohol red wines throughout the year. But once the sun comes out, I find it difficult to think about big, beefy red wines.

Once the temperature starts to rise, the red wines of the Loire valley come into their own. Usually low in alcohol, with a mouth-wateringly refreshing bite, they have a lightness and vibrancy that seems to epitomise summer. In fact, virtually all of the Loire wines, white and rosé too, fit the sunny category.

I serve the reds cool, or even lightly chilled, to big up the refreshing acidity. This week, three of four wines hail from the Loire, one from the obscure appellation of Cheverny in Touraine. Here pinot noir is blended with gamay (a Loire version of the rarely seen burgundian “passetoutgrains”) and sometimes cabernet franc too. Gamay and pinot noir from the Loire can be very good, and the region is also home to most of the world’s great cabernet franc, one of my favourite grapes. Even the best wines, from Chinon, Bourgueil and St Nicolas de Bourgueil, are low in alcohol and perfect for summer. Touraine and other areas can also be good, and less expensive too. The key is to buy from a ripe vintage – 2014 was good and 2015 excellent.

Other names to look out for include all forms of Beaujolais, or Mencía-based wines from northwest Spain. From Italy, barbera, dolcetto and valpolicella can fit the bill, but check the alcohol levels before buying. Ideally you want a wine at 12-13 per cent. Cerasuolo di Vittoria is expensive but light and delicious.

Australian pinot noir fits into the same category, as does German spätburgunder. From Austria blaufränkisch and zweigelt are light and tasty. For value options, Chile is now producing some very good pinot noir. Some are a little high in alcohol but should be light in body.

The mere mention of the word lambrusco is enough to bring on a hangover with some wine drinkers. Memories linger. The good guys have always produced delicious wines, none more so than that featured today. Their website suggests you drink this delicious sparkling red at about 14-15 degrees with all manner of charcuterie as well as ravioli and risottos.

The other wines featured today would also be perfect with all forms of cold pork, from ham to salami to patés, chicken dishes, tarts and pies, as well as more full-flavoured fish such as tuna and salmon.

DSCF6528Domaine Bellier 2014, Cheverny

A delicious delicate blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay with seductive light red cherry fruits.


ImageLes Granges 2014, Domaine Baudry, Chinon

Delicious lightly peppery crunchy redcurrants and cherries. Yum!

Stockists: Grapevine, Dalkey (; Red Island, Skerries; Cabot and Co, Westport (; No.1 Pery Square, Limerick; McCambridges, Galway.

DSCF6624Concerto 2014 Lambrusco Reggiano, Medici Ermete

Effervescent raspberries and other juicy red fruits. Summer in a glass.

Stockists: Sheridan’s; Mitchell & Son; Green Man Wines.

ImagePinot Noir La Roncière 2014, Val de Loire

Light, floral and refreshing, with earthy dark cherry fruits. Serve cool.

Stockists: Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown.

Posted in: Irish Times

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