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O’Briens recently introduced some great wines from two exciting Sherry producers. Both are family-owned with a long and noble history. More importantly, both produce some great wines.

Bodegas Barón was founded in 1895 by Manuel Barón Fernández. His wife’s family had been involved in the sherry business for ten generations, so they could claim to be amongst the oldest producers in the region. Today the company is owned by José Rodriguez Jiménez and his two sons. Based in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, they specialise in Manzanilla.

Once a large successful Sherry producer, Bodega Cayetano del Pino & Cia, like many bodegas, went through a difficult period in the late 20th century, as world consumption fell, and the market became dominated by mass-produced poor quality wines. The family-owned bodega has recently re-emerged and developed a reputation as one of the leading producers of Palo Cortado Sherry.

VOS stands for Very Old Sherry and signifies that the wines are at least twenty years old. All of the wines below are bone dry. I am indebted to the excellent website for much of the background information above.

Hats off to O’Briens for sourcing these fascinating wines. If you enjoy Sherry, all are definitely worth a try.

Xixarito Manzanilla Pasada en Rama Bodegas Barón
€24.95 from O’Briens.

Yeasty aromas, fresh and saline with green apples, green olives (including the brine), and almonds. It has a lightly toasty note, with a delicious freshness and crisp dry finish. Enjoy this chilled with jamón ibérico, toasted almonds and other simple tapas.

Xixarito Oloroso Bodegas Barón
€29.95 from O’Briens.

This has light mahogany polish, toffee and caramel, toasted walnuts and a tangy freshness. It finishes bone dry. This is fine but doesn’t quite reach the heights of the other wines below, but then it is quite a bit cheaper.

Amontillado VOS Bodegas Cayetano del Pino & Cia
€39.95 for a 50cl bottle

A beautiful wine with real elegance and depth; there is a refreshing acidity alongside toasted almonds, wood polish and burnt orange peel. The finish lingers very nicely. The flavours are not quite as explosive as the Palo Cortado, but this is a very stylish refined Sherry.

Palo Cortado VOS Bodegas Cayetano del Pino & Cia
€49.95 for a 50cl. bottle

This is an incredible complex wine, packed with flavour and full of character. Intense aromas and flavours of toasted walnuts and hazelnuts, orange peel, dried fruits and citrus with a long tangy dry savoury mineral finish. I am a big fan of aged sherries with Comté cheese. By chance I stumbled across a brilliant match for this Palo Cortado; Ossau-Iraty, a sheep’s cheese from south-west France.

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Four wines this week; all were in the running to feature in an Irish Times article I wrote last Saturday, but for various reasons (price, availability, late arrivals) did not make it to the final four. It was not because they weren’t good enough, so this week four great white wines all from lesser-known regions of Spain.

Ikigall 2022, Gallina de Piel, Penèdes (Organic) Catalunya

Cool, vivid and fresh with racy orange peel, white fruits a touch of fennel and a crisp mineral finish. It improved further as the wine opened up and became warmer.

An unoaked wine made from 85% Xarel.lo, 10% Malvasia de Sitges and 5% Muscat of Alexandria. Gallina de Piel is a winemaking project set up by David Seijas, formerly head sommelier at the famous El Bulli restaurant in Catalunya. Seijas selects parcels of indigenous grapes from various parts of Northern Spain to create wines suited to gastronomy.

From Martins, D3; Barnhill Stores, Dalkey; Clontarf Wines; Matson’s, Grange; McHughs, D5; A Taste of Spain, D2;

Finca Viñoa Treixadura 2021, Ribeiro, Galicia

Herbal aromas with fresh clean zippy green fruits, a nice texture and a good dry finish. Well-made wine and well-priced too. Try it with seafood.

Treixadura is grown in the Ribeiro region of Galicia, inland and on the Portuguese border. In Portugal, where it is known as Trajadura, it is a major component in Vinho Verde. In Spain, the wines tend to be aromatic with good levels of acidity and broad peach, and sometimes, tropical fruits.

Mitchell & Son, Glasthule and Avoca; Clontarf Wines.

Ojo y Coillo 2022, Miguel Castro Naillo, Sierra de Montilla

An utterly delightful, elegant wine with subtle apple and pear fruits, green olives, grilled almonds and bready notes. It has a refreshing acidity and a long bone-dry finish. A delicious not-sherry!

The Ojo y Coillo is fermented in old fino barrels and then aged under a film of flor for a year, before being put into stainless steel tanks. It is the personal project of Miguel Castro Maíll, who returned for college to his grandfather’s 50–80-year-old vines growing at altitude on albariza soils.

Montilla lies some 150 kilometres from sherry country – Jerez – and makes wines that tasted remarkably similar at times. The soils and climate are not dissimilar, and the region produces the full range of flor-affected wines including fino, amontillado and palo cortado. However, unlike sherry, most Montilla is not fortified and is made using the Pedro Ximénez grape instead of Palomino Fino.

From Blackrock Cellar; Morton’s of Galway; Green Man Wine, D6W

Finca Sandoval, Aurora 2022 (Castilla-La Mancha)

Vibrant and fresh with pear and apple fruits and a very attractive note of fennel. It is light, yet not short on flavour, with a nice bite coming through on the finish. I enjoyed it as an aperitif.

Originally set up by well-known Spanish wine writer Victor de la Serna, the wines are now made by highly regarded winemaker Javi Revert. The winery is based in Manchuela, not far from Valencia, and home to Bobal, a red variety that has been receiving a lot of attention recently. Many of the white grapes are grown at altitude and the wines are surprisingly delicate and light.

The wine is made from a blend of local grape varieties, including 60% Marisancho and 10% Albilla de la Mancha, as well as other local varieties. If you haven’t heard of either, don’t worry. I hadn’t either before researching the wine.

From Manning’s Emporium, Bantry; Green Man Wines, D6; The Allotment

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Gai’a Wild Ferment Assyrtiko 2022, Santorini

Gai’a Wild Ferment Assyrtiko 2022, Santorini

Gai’a Wild Ferment Assyrtiko 2022, Santorini, Greece
13.5% €36.95

I did a tasting for the local parish recently and mentioned during my talk that the above wine was one of my favourites. The following day, as a thank you, I received a bottle! We tasted the Gai’a Rosé on the night which went down very well. It is available for €13.95 from O’Briens, a great price.

Bright white flowers with a touch of grilled nuts on the nose. Racy, intense lemon zest and salty minerals, crisp white fruits, hints of toasty oak and a lip-smacking dry finish. Utterly gorgeous dry white wine, perfect for summer drinking with shellfish.

Assyrtiko from Santorini is currently enjoying a moment. The region is utterly unique, with volcanic soils planted with ‘koulkura’ or basket trained vines giving protection from the constant winds. There is very little rain, lots of sea mist and plenty of sunshine.

The Gai’a Assyrtiko Wild Ferment is left on the skins for ten hours before being fermented, using wild yeasts, in a mix of stainless-steel tanks, new and old French, American and acacia barrels.

Available from O’Briens.

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WineSpark Tasting

WineSpark Tasting

WineSpark held a member’s tasting in the Atrium in Trinity College last week. It was a great venue for a tasting, although a little dark at the corner tables. If you aren’t familiar with WineSpark, the company was set up by Irishman Eamon FitzGerald, one of the founders of Naked Wines in the U.K.

His idea is simple but brilliant; members can buy their wines from WineSpark at much-reduced prices – cost price plus 10% – a considerable saving on standard high-street prices. You pay a monthly subscription of €10 and can buy as much or as little wine as you wish. But obviously the more you buy the more you save!

There were thirty-six wines on tasting, with an emphasis on Spain, although there are plenty more wines on their website. Overall, WineSpark has a great range of wines, well worth checking out. See for details.

The prices in brackets are what FitzGerald calculates the standard retail prices would be.

El Buffon de Arrayan, Albillo 2022, Cebreros
€24.06 (€38)

Made from the rare Albillo Real variety, this is a fascinating and delicious wine, deep in colour with broad, rich honeyed peaches and exotic fruits. This has plenty of concentration and body; it is hard to believe it is a mere 13% abv.

La Salvación Godello 2022, Bierzo, César Márquez
12.5% €25.56 (€38)

A stunning wine with a great intensity of flavour; fresh and tangy, with orange peel, pears and peaches with a saline note on the lengthy finish. Great value for money.

El Hato y El Garabato Sin Blanca 2018, Arribes del Duero
€22.53 (€36)

From Arribes, one of the most remote wine regions of Spain, this is a very exciting wine made from a field blend of local grapes, including Juan García, Bruñal, Rufete, Tinta Jeromo and many more including some white grapes. Mouth-watering, succulent red summer fruits with good acidity and a rounded finish. Their De Buena Jera (€30.65) is even better.

Domaine Boucabeille Monte Nero 2021, Côtes du Roussillon
€23.36 (€37)

A classic Roussillon, big, powerful and muscular with concentrated dark fruits, dried herbs and a strong mineral element. Not for the faint-hearted but a great wine.

I Filari Nero d’Avola 2020m Sicily
€28.54 (€46)

There are many lighter, more elegant Nero d’Avola being produced these days. This isn’t one of them! Big and full-bodied with masses of dark fruits and a core of soft tannins; it still has a certain elegance. One for the hedonists amongst us.

César Marquez Valtuille 2022, Bierzo


€22.61 (€36)

From one of the great producers in Galicia, a very stylish, refined, medium-bodied red with ripe blackcurrant fruits, a touch of liquorice and a savoury finish. Great value for money.

Terre des Dames 2021 Saint-Chinian
€22.73 (€34)

A very stylish wine that combines power with elegance in a very attractive way. Concentrated dark forest fruits with a lick of liquorice, some dried herbs, a lovely freshness, and a long finish. Nice wine.

Martinelle Vetoux Rouge 2022


€22.46 (€35)

Powerful and serious with lots of mineral and intense ripe dark fruits, and some swarthy tannins on the finish. Another great full-bodied red wine.

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Two Favourites from O’Briens

Two Favourites from O’Briens

I was in my local O’Briens last weekend and couldn’t resist buying two of my favourite wines for dinner that night. I have been enjoying both for five years, probably a lot longer.

Domaine Begude Étoile Chardonnay 2022, Limoux (Organic)

James Kinglake and his team produce a fine range of wines, mostly made from either Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. The Étoile is fermented and aged in large French oak foudres and demi-muids using indigenous yeasts. It strikes the perfect balance between rich and fresh, with a beautifully textured palate and good acidity. Subtle toasted almonds ripe pears and apples with a crisp dry finish. Perfect with richer seafood or chicken dishes. Fantastic value for money, especially when compared with any white Burgundy. 13.5%abv.

€18.96 down from €22.95 from O’Briens.

Bardolino Classico Cuvée XV 2022, Guerrieri Rizzardi

I am a big fan of plain Bardolino and Valpolicella (as opposed to all the ripasso and appassimento wines) and the Cuvée XV is a perfect example of the style. The vineyards of Bardolino overlook the stunningly beautiful Lake Garda. The wines tend to be light and fruity. The Cuvée XV is more full-bodied than most but still retains a lovely freshness. Medium-bodied with gorgeous supple ripe blackcurrant and black cherry fruits and a tannin free finish. Perfect with most white meats. 13.5%abv

€15.95 from O’Briens.

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Kurtatsch Schiava Sonntaler DOC, 2022, Alto-Adige

Kurtatsch Schiava Sonntaler DOC, 2022, Alto-Adige

€25 from Whelehan’s, Loughlinstown,

Delightful light lively refreshing summer fruits; strawberries, raspberries and redcurrants, with barely perceptibly fine tannins on the finish. Smooth and elegant, this is a perfect summer red, possibly served cool.

Schiava is the grape variety, or more accurately group of grape varieties; known as Trollinger in Germany, it is mostly found in the Alto Adige and Trentino regions of Northern Italy. The grapes come from a number of old vineyards in the village of Kurtatsch.

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Vinifinesse Tasting

Vinifinesse Tasting

Today a look at some great wines from Central Europe I came across at a recent Vinifinesse portfolio tasting. It was a fantastic tasting with no real duds and lots a very high quality, interesting wines. Almost all were made exclusively from indigenous varieties, and provided proof that grapes such as Furmint and Kékfrankos / Blaufränkisch can produce world class wines. I have chosen one wine from each producer, most of whom were present at the tasting.

Vinifinesse is run by Balázs Rakamazi and his partner Judit Gordán. The company imports wine from Hungary and other Central European countries, as well as a range of gourmet foods. His wines are available through independent wine shops. The prices I give are recommended retail.

Restaurants and wine shops can contact them on 085 868 3017, .

Szászi Furmint 2021 Lake Balaton, Hungary €38
Lovely citrus acidity, razor-sharp fresh orchard fruits, minerals and very good length. A seriously good wine that will improve further over the next year or two.

Bussay Mura White 2020, Zala, Hungary €28
A blend of Olaszrizling and Riesling. Deliciously textured, a touch of honey, floral notes and plenty of cleansing acidity. Lovely wine.

Furmint 2022 Steigler, Sopron (Neusiedlersee), Hungary, Organic €35
Stunning wine with orange peel, rich stone fruits bound up in taut mineral acidity. There was also a great Grüner Veltliner, and some other outstanding Furmints here.

Weninger Blaufränkisch 2020, Mittelburgenland, Austria €28
Ripe quite rich pure dark fruits; nice intensity and plenty of freshness. Weninger also showed an equally good Kékfrankos from Hungary.

Egri Bikaver Superior 2021 Böjt, Eger, Hungary, Organic €30
Tangy, earthy dark fruits with a touch of woodsmoke and well managed firm tannins.

Egri Bikaver Superior 2021Gál Tibor, Hungary €26.50
Firm dark cherry and damson fruits with a spicy edge, well-integrated but firm tannins and a good dry finish.

Szivem Kékfrankos 2020, Heimann & Sons, Szekszárd. Organic €49
A little closed but great concentration, wonderful fresh wild berry dark fruits with lovely grip on the finish. Some great Kékfrankos here and some very good Kadarka too. Both the Szivem above and the Bati Kereszt Kékrankos are superb.

Hidaspetre Kékfrankos 2020 ,Vida, Szekszárd, organic €32
Very elegant and pure with a lovely spiciness and good refreshing acidity. Moreish and succulent wine.

Instead of Honeymoon 2021, Ipacs, Szabö Villány
Full-bodied and powerful with smoky dark fruits, spicy oak, and a rounded finish.

Farika Frankovka 2022, Bott Frygyes, Pohronie, Slovakia, biodynamic €50
Wonderful piquant pure ripe dark fruits, with a refreshing minerality. High intensity and lingering length. Great wine. A very good range of white and red wine, including some Hárslevü and Frankovka – Kékfrankos!

Világi Riesling 2021 Pohronie, Slovakia, organic €35
A very impressive Riesling; steely, with a real backbone, long and full of stone fruits finishing dry.

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10 Great Wines from Wines on The Green.

10 Great Wines from Wines on The Green.
Ally Alpine from Wines on the Green / Celtic Whiskey

Celtic Whiskey is best known as one of the leading sprits specialists in the country. Led by Scotsman Ally Alpine they have been to the fore of the Irish whiskey revolution. Celtic also import a very good range of wines, including what is probably the best selection of fortified wines in the country. The entire range is good though, with lots of interesting wines, and often very keenly priced. Their wine name is Wines in the Green, although the two seem interchangeable at times. The wines below are a small selection taken from their full range. Some of their wines are also available elsewhere in specialist retailers such as Mitchell & Son, Jus de Vine, Sweeney’s D3, Clontarf Wines and Grapevine, Dalkey.

Gran Barquero
Gran Barquero is a Montilla-Moriles – wine made in a very similar way to sherry, but in a neighbouring region. It cannot therefore call itself sherry. The soils are albariza and the winemaking is identical. The big difference is the grape; instead of Palomino as in Jerez, Montilla is made exclusively from Pedro Ximénez. The wines, including the two below, offer amazing value for money.

Gran Barquero 10-year-old Fino Montilla-Moriles

Briny, green olives, very bready with a real fruitiness, an attractive earthiness; bone dry and quite delicious. A bargain price too.

Grand Barquero 25-year-old Palo Cortado, Montilla-Moriles

Refined aromas of almonds and orange zest, full-bodied yet fresh with rich peach fruits, lightly toasty, some citrus and a lingering dry finish. Wonderful wine.

Cantina Tramin Cuvée Bianco 2022, Alto Adige

I have been a big fan of the Tramin Pinot Grigio and Pinot Blanc for some time. Both sell for around €20. The Cuvée, made from a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, and Sauvignon seems to offer equally good value. Lightly aromatic, with textured pears and apples finishing dry. A great aperitif or with seafood.

I featured both of these Montepulciano d’Abruzzo in an earlier blog. Both represent excellent value for money.

Lupi Reali Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2022, Organic

Light, juicy and so easy to drink with fresh black cherries and an attractive earthy touch. The perfect midweek wine and a steal at this price.

Valle Reale Montepulicano d’Abruzzo 2022, Organic

Made by the same producer as the Lupi Reali above, this is a big step up. Concentrated dark cherry fruit, good acidity and some very well integrated tannins on the finish. This has real grip and style.

Andeluna 1300 Malbec 2022 Mendoza, Argentina

This is seriously good value for money. Violet aromas, concentrated dark fruits – loganberries, cassis and dark cherries with a touch of vanilla, and well-integrated tannins on the finish.

Villa Blanche Picpoul de Pinet 2022, Calmel & Jospeh

Picpoul is ubiquitous these days, having taken over from Muscadfet as our favourite wine to drink with shellfish and other seafood. This is a very well-made fairly priced Picpoul with clean concentrated apple fruits and a good finish. It is certainly worth the premium over less expensive supermarket versions.

Ànima Negra ÀN/2, 2021, Mallorca

Ànima Negra was founded in 1994 by two self-taught winemakers who wanted to showcase the indigenous grape varieties of Mallorca. Made primarily from three local varieties – Callet, Mantonegro and Fogoneu, with 15% Syrah, this is a delicious wine packed with pure ripe supple dark fruits set off by an attractive minerality.

Castell d’Encus Acusp 2020, Costers del Segre

Founded by Raül Bobet in 2001, Castell d’Encus has vineyards at 800 – 1,200 metres in Costers del Segre, in the Catalan Pyrenees. The estate produces a range of wonderful, elegant refreshing wines made from various grape varieties. The Ekam Riesling is a personal favourite, but I hadn’t tasted the Acusp, a Pinot Noir, for some years. It is a great wine, refined, pure and expressive, with delicate dark cherry fruits and a fine mineral note. Given current Burgundy prices, it offers value for money.

Quinta do Noval Single Vineyard Unfiltered LBV Port

A very delicious vintage-style port, bursting with fresh ripe cassis, dark plums and black cherries. There is nice spicy touch and well-integrated tannins.

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Bourgogne Chardonnay 2022 Bernard Defaix

Bourgogne Chardonnay 2022 Bernard Defaix

Vibrant pure crystalline green apples with a lovely stony mineral edge and a bone dry, slightly austere finish. Superior to many Chablis at around the same price – or more.

€29 from Wine Pair, Dublin 8; D-Six off licence, Dublin 6; Martins off licence, Dublin 3.

Bourgogne Chardonnay, like its red counterpart Bourgogne Pinot Noir, can offer great value for money. It all depends on who makes it and what part of Burgundy it comes from. Wines from the Mâconnais and other parts of southern Burgundy tend to be richer and more textured in style. Cooler regions in the north are generally crisp and mineral with racy green fruits.

Domaine Bernard Defaix produces some very fine complex Chablis from his own vineyards, which includes some premiers crus. He also buys in grapes from other growers. The Defaix Bourgogne Chardonnay is made from bought-in grapes, but it stood out as offering great value for money at a recent tasting in Dublin.

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The Wines on Wednesday

The Wines on Wednesday

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is one of the most popular Italian red wines, and amongst the cheapest in most Italian restaurants and supermarkets. Most of these are drinkable with soft easy fruits and no hard tannins. But spend a little more and you will find some very good wines. I tasted these three wines at a trade tasting earlier this week. All stood out as offering great value for money.

Lupi Reali Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2022, Organic

Light, juicy and so easy to drink with fresh black cherries and an attractive earthy touch. The perfect midweek wine and a steal at this price.

From Wines on the Green, Dawson St.,; Nolans, Clontarf; McHughs, Kilbarrack & Malahide Road; O’ Driscolls off licence, Cahersiveen.

Valle Reale Montepulicano d’Abruzzo 2022, Organic

Made by the same producer as the Lupi Reali above, this is a big step up. Concentrated dark cherry fruit, good acidity and some very well integrated tannins on the finish. This has real grip and styler.

From Wines on the Green, Dawson St,; Nolans, Clontarf; McHughs, Kilbarrack & Malahide Road; O’ Driscolls off licence, Cahersiveen.

Malandrino Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2022 Cataldi Madonna

From one of the finest producers in the region a seductive silky smooth wine packed with rich dark fruits and a lovely lingering finish.

From Avoca; Blackrock Cellar; Deveney’s Dundrum; Drink Store, Stoneybatter; McHugh’s off licences; Redmonds, Ranelagh; Sweeney’s, D3; The Corkscrew, D2; Thomas’s of Foxrock.

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