Sometimes I yearn for a little peace. Tiring of aggressive reporters loudly interrogating their prey on Irish radio, I often turn over to Radio Four just to enjoy the soft mellifluous tones of Eddie Mair or Martha Kearney. I have similar feelings with food and wine; while I love powerful food, so many dishes seem to be a huge blast of flavour. Recipes invariably include a mass of spices, chilli, vinegar, and sugar. Noise and power is the order of the day.
Last week, I had a bowl of homemade beef consommé. It was full of lip-smacking meatiness, with notes of sweet carrot and other vegetables. It was light and yet it was full of flavour, proof that less can sometimes mean more. Less allows us to savour the subtle purity of a food, instead of a faux complexity that often masks inferior ingredients and simply overwhelms and confuses. The same holds with winemaking.
I like wines that gently seduce rather than roughly grab you by the collar. We are all too familiar with reading tasting notes that use descriptors such as powerful, rich, luscious and mouth-filling. Loud food needs similar wine; heavy, weighty and mouth-coating, higher in alcohol, maybe with a little residual sugar and new oak. Or cocktails. But these days, when I want something to drink, I inevitably find myself searching though my samples for something lighter and more elegant.
This Easter, I am sure the pages of various papers will be full of recipes for lamb laced with the aforementioned flavours. Instead, I may tuck into a fillet of sole poached in a cream and white wine sauce. If I have the energy and the time, I will follow this with a bowl of chicken consommé, possibly with a glass of amontillado sherry, and then a fairly plain roast; lamb studded with garlic, or a rib of beef, served with gravy, steamed potatoes with butter and parsley or a creamy mash, and young purple sprouting or creamed spinach. The traditional choice for such a meal would be a white Burgundy followed a fine mature claret or a Reserva Rioja. All of these would be entirely appropriate, and would fall into the category of “quiet”. But there are plenty of options, and as spring and summer beckon, I will certainly feature more.
Each of the wines below stopped me in my tracks over the last month or two. I had tried all three before, (the Crozes is an old favourite that ages well) but they all struck me as wines with an element missing in so many others – interest. Each sip seemed to bring another angle that made me want to take another sip. They were refreshing, elegant and restrained. And quiet.
Agustí Torelló Mata Cava Reserva 2011
Delicately fruity, toasted nuts, a subtle creamy texture and a dry finish. Delicious sparkling wine; the perfect aperitif.
Stockists: Mitchellandson.com (online only) and Sheridan’s Cheese shops.
Louro 2015, Valdeorras, Bodegas Rafael Palacios
A wonderful, sophisticated blend of citrus acidity and plump pear and melon fruits.
Stockists: Jus de Vine; 64wine; Green Man Wines; Corkscrew; Grapevine; Clontarf Wines.
Crozes-Hermitage Rouge 2015 Yann Chave
Sublime rounded, elegant, dark cherry and plum fruits. Ripe with a savoury finish.
Donnybrook Fair; Searsons; Mortons; Ardkeen; Clontarf Wines; No1 Pery Square.