First published in the Irish Times, Saturday 23rd November, 2019.
Having a party this Christmas? Choosing the right wine is not too difficult once you keep a couple of guidelines in mind.
Supermarkets have plenty of sub-€10 bottles, but cheap wines really only benefit the taxman. To send your guests home happy, be prepared to spend €10 or more a bottle. If you can stretch to €15, you will certainly notice the difference. If your budget is tight, don’t worry; I list a few of my favourite €10 supermarket wines below. Either way, it is worth buying one bottle first and trying it out at home, maybe with a few friends.
Richer, more alcoholic wines – white as well as red – are best avoided; a hefty 14.5 per cent red wine will overwhelm the palate and have your guests reeling after a glass on an empty stomach. Far better to go for lighter wines that refresh. Heavily oaked white wines are best kept for food, so avoid these if at all possible. With red wines steer clear of those with drying tannins; again, great with food but unpleasant on their own. There are plenty of wines with 11-13.5 per cent alcohol that will go down so much better. Lastly, remember wine stimulates the appetite and also tastes a lot better with food; a few nibbles, even bought-in supermarket party trays, will provide welcome soakage.
There is a huge range of low-alcohol white wines, including Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough (always popular), but remember that Chile and the Loire valley also produce very good versions. Spain offers Verdejo from Rueda and Rías Baixas; Portugal has some great white wines, including Alvarinho and Vinho Verde, and from France I would go for Muscadet, Picpoul de Pinet or Côtes de Gascogne. Italy has a range of light whites, my favourites being Verdicchio and Soave, but a good Pinot Grigio would work too.
Light, fruity red wines include inexpensive Merlot, Pinot Noir, Gamay/Beaujolais, unoaked Rioja and Valpolicella and Bardolino.
My recommendations from the multiples include the Les Courtelles Picpoul de Pinet (€11) and Silver Moki Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (€10.50) from Dunnes Stores, Picouto de Cima Vinho Verde (€11.95) and Rizzardi Bardolino Classico (€14.95) from O’Briens, and Exquisite Marlborough Sauvignon (€9.99) and South Australia Pinot Noir (€8.99) from Aldi. Lidl has Laurana Verdicchio di Castelli di Jesi and Madame Parmentier Régnié (both €9.99). Marks & Spencer has a Verdicchio (€10.50) and a light, fruity Valpolicella Valpatena (€10.50).
Pinot Noir 2017, Domaine Antugnac, Haute Vallée de l’Aude
Lovely sweet, ripe red-cherry fruits with a slight earthiness and a supple, fruit-filled finish. Great served solo or with a variety of nibbles at cool room temperature.
From Wines Direct, Mullingar and Arnott’s, Dublin 1, winesdirect.ie
Aduna Rioja 2018
Violet aromas and vibrant, fresh dark-cherry fruits with a soft easy finish. Perfect party wine, and great with tapas.
From Mitchell & Son, Dublin 1, Sandycove, Co Dublin, and at Avoca in Kilmacanogue, Co Wicklow, and Dunboyne, Co Meath, mitchellandson.com; Myles Doyle, Gorey, Co Wexford; Wilde & Green, Dublin 6, wildeandgreen.com
Picpoul de Pinet Villa des Croix 2018
Plump, rounded melon and peach fruits balanced nicely by a lightly zesty saline acidity, finishing dry. Great solo or with lighter canapes.
From Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4, baggotstreetwines.com; Blackrock Cellar, Co Dublin, blackrockcellar.com; Deveney’s, Dublin 14
La Raspa Blanca Seco 2017, Bodegas Viñedos Verticales, Sierras de Malaga, Spain
Fresh, fragrant and elegant with inviting floral aromas and delicate, pure tropical fruits. A delight to drink. A party wine with a difference, perfect on its own or with nibbles.
From Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4, baggotstreetwines.com; Lilliput Stores, Dublin 7, lilliputstores.com; Coach House, Dublin 16, thecoachhouseofflicence.ie