First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 4th January, 2020
We are fast approaching Blue Monday, the day many believe to be the worst of the year, when credit card bills must be paid, diets have failed, the days still don’t seem any longer and the weather is still miserable.
If dry January is not for you, and your credit facilities are maxed out, this week I bring you four widely available wines, all costing €10 or less. I have been lukewarm about inexpensive supermarket wines before, but these four offer genuinely great value for money.
As well as producing some of the most exciting wines around, Spain is a ready source of great glugging wines at very reasonable prices. In addition to the Garnacha and Rioja here. O’Briens has the ever reliable Protocolo, currently €10.95, but often on offer at a bargain €9.95. Most independents should have a well-priced Tempranillo, Garnacha or possibly Bobal from the centre of Spain, an area that produces massive quantities of wine, often at bargain prices.
Cheap Rioja can be awful and I generally avoid it, but the unoaked Cepa Lebrel Joven included here is an exception; I prefer it to the more expensive Cepa Lebrel Reserva and Gran Reserva. I bought my bottle for €5.99 before Christmas, but the price has returned to €7.55 now. You won’t mistake it for that fine Rioja you splurged out on for Christmas, but it really offers great value. In general, I am a big fan of unoaked Rioja. Some of the better producers make lovely clean elegant wines, but you will need to visit your independent wine merchant for these.
Laurent Miquel and his Irish wife Neasa planted Albariño vines in their high-altitude vineyard in the wilds of Corbières in the Languedoc. These were and probably still are the only Albariño vines in France. The wines were always good but have been improving every year. At €10, they represent a real bargain, less expensive than most Rías Baixas, the home of Albariño.
Until recently you had to look hard to find a Pinot Noir that didn’t cost a fortune. But first Chile and now Romania and New Zealand are producing very tasty wines at prices that are very affordable.
O’Briens Romanian Wildflower Pinot Noir is currently €9. The Aldi Exquisite New Zealand Pinot Noir (they also have a very decent Australian Pinot) used to come from Marlborough, New Zealand’s largest wine producing region, but last year it switched to Wairarapa. Wairarapa is less well-known than Marlborough, but the wines, red and white, can be every bit as good, and the Pinots better.
Cepa Lebrel Rioja Joven 2018
Light and juicy with clean damson and dark cherry fruits. Refreshing acidity and free of tannins. Try it with pork or chicken dishes.
From Lidl, lidl.ie
Campaneo Old Vines Garnacha 2017, Campo de Borja
Medium to full-bodied with spice, milk chocolate and smooth dark fruits. Try it with red meats; a steak or lamb casserole.
From Tesco, tesco.ie
Laurent Miquel Albariño 2018, IGP Aude
Zesty citrus aromas, with toothsome elegant pear fruits and a crisp dry finish. Drink it solo, with shellfish or simply cooked white fish.
From Dunnes Stores, dunnesstores.com
Exquisite Collection Pinot Noir 2018, Wairarapa, New Zealand
Light, vivid black cherry and damson fruits with a nice refreshing backbone. Perfect with tuna, salmon, or roast duck.
From Aldi, aldi.ie