MY TOP TWENTY WINES FROM MARKS & SPENCER
Of all the supermarkets, Marks & Spencer try the hardest; they certainly have the best and most adventurous range of wines. I think I have noticed a slight thinning out in Ireland at least, but it is still superior to all of their rivals, with an amazingly eclectic list of wines from all over the globe, with a heavy emphasis on the Mediterranean. At entry level they have a range of House Wines and other wines priced at €7.50-8.00. Some of these are very good. Below a small selection of my favourites, from €9 to €52.50 from recent tastings.
This article was first published in The Irish Times online edition.
The alcohol is removed by a process known as reverse osmosis, leaving a fresh, juicy, fruit-filled glass of alcohol-free wine. You miss the alcohol a bit, but this would go down a treat at parties and any other get-together.
Made in the same way as Prosecco, this is a fresh, fruity, lightly sparkling wine with clean apple fruits. Not too sweet; I would prefer it to most Prosecco. Great value for money, and worth keeping in mind with the festive season ahead.
If you are having a gang around, a magnum creates a real sense of occasion, and this one is very good. Champagne from a magnum generally tastes better too. Real depth and length, with rich creamy complex apples and brioche.
Perfumed and delicate with very attractive soft floral stone fruits and citrus. Great value for money.
Vermentino, usually found on the island of Sardinia, has been planted in Tuscany, and now Sicily in recent years. It has the great advantage of retaining acidity in warm climates.
An old favourite of mine. The current vintage is fresh and crisp, with lovely rich ripe peaches and subtle nuts and a dry finish. Try it with creamy pasta dishes or chicken. Excellent value for money.
The Palataia Pinot Noir is pretty good and well-priced, but his was my first taste of the Pinot Blanc. It is very good, crisp and dry with very attractive pear fruits and a dry finish. A good all-purpose white to serve as an aperitif, with fish and seafood or white meats.
This is one of my all-time favourite M&S wines, and I was delighted to see a new vintage appear recently. Made in clay amphorae in Montilla-Moriles, it is an utterly delicious, vaguely sherry like (but unfortified) wine with delicate toasted nuts, green olives and plump apricot fruits, finishing dry. Amazing value for money.
Attractive brisk gingery green apple fruits and a crisp dry finish. Well-made, easy-drinking and good value for money.
It is rare to find any Austrian wine at his sort of price, and this is a pretty good example.
From the cooler Adelaide Hills, a very nicely crafted crisp dry Chardonnay, with no obvious oak; just ample apple and pear fruits, with a solid backbone of acidity. Light enough to partner seafood, and enough body to accompany chicken. Very good value for money.
Val de Souto 2017, Ribeiro
Galicia produces some fantastic white wines, including Albarinho from Rîas Baixas and Godello from Valdeorras. This wine, made mainly from the unpronounceable Treixadura grape, is well worth trying; very lovely plump apricots, a subtle saline touch, finishing dry. Nice wine. With scallops or prawns.
Very floral and aromatic, with racy acidity and attractive refreshing fruit. Nice wine. Is this how an Irish wine might taste in the future?
Madiran can be tannic and chewy, but this version is very accessible with good smooth ripe blackcurrant fruits, and light savoury tannins on the finish. Perfect with a steak or grilled duck breast.
Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile covers all bases, from great structured wines to soft and sweet. This hits the mid range with decen structure and very good fruits.
A very fine Cabernet, with clean blackcurrants and cassis, a refreshing seam of acidity and a good dry finish. Roast lamb or beef.
Marks & Spencer has a track record for listing wines from lesser-known countries; this time it is Uruguay, producer of some very good wines, with the South-west French variety Tannat being their specialty. This version is ripe with soft dark fruits, sprinkled with spice and wood smoke. One to try with barbecued beef.
Intensely aromatic, all violets and dark fruits, with delicious fresh, lightly spicy plums, dark cherries and mint on the palate. Belly of pork or lamb chops.
An Australian classic, of a style that is not easy to come across these days. Big, powerful hedonistic sweet ripe dark fruits, lots of spicy vanilla oak, and a very good finish. Not for the faint-hearted, but perfect with all sorts of red meats dishes on a cold winter evening.
A cuvée of80% Cinsault and 20% Grenache from the legendary Lebanese producer.
Juicy dark cherries and raspberries with a lovely spicy touch. Very tasty wine. With a lightly spicy lamb tagine.
Contino was the first single-vineyard Rioja, created in 1973. The wines are always impeccably made. An excellent young Rioja with very concentrated blackcurrant fruits, firm structured tannins and great length. Ideally you would stash it away for a few years. If serving now, decant before serving. Perfect with roast lamb.
This was bought by Marks & Spencer at the annual auction at the Hopsices de Beaune. Expensive but good Burgundy is not cheap. A relatively young wine that will improve further with a little age. Youthful piquant ripe dark cherry, with a touch of smoky new oak, underpinned by good acidity. If you are having it for Xmas, decant ½ hour before dinner. Perfect with the Christmas turkey.
Made by Lustau, this is the perfect Christmas treat for the Sherry lover in your life. Intense, bone dry and wonderful, this has masses of toasted nuts, dried fruits, orange peel and much more besides. Drink with a plate of hard cheese, crackers and walnuts.