First published in The Irish Times, Saturday December 23rd, 2017
This week, a few last-minute gift ideas for the wine lover in your life. A bottle of wine, or even better Champagne, will always be gratefully received, and as far as I am concerned, will trump a wine accessory every time. Ready-prepared gift packs are not always inspiring, but any wine shop can make up a tailor-made gift box for you. For the woman or man who has it all, a bottle of the recently released Krug 2004 Vintage Champagne will go down at treat. They might even open it while you are there. If that is beyond your budget, then a magnum of the Bénard-Pitois (see below) from the newly revamped Whelehan’s in Loughlinstown makes a statement. Both of these could also be opened to celebrate New Year’s Eve, as would a bottle of Lidl organic Prosecco for €14.99 – available only from December 27th onwards.
Back to Christmas presents. Anyone with the slightest interest in wine would be thrilled to receive the Littorai Pinot Noir or Lismore Reserve Chardonnay below, both superb New World versions of white and red Burgundy. Why not a bottle of each? Speaking of Burgundy, Raymond Blake’s recently published book Côte d’Or (€30, Infinite Ideas) is an outstanding guide to the best wines of the region, as well as being one of the most readable wine books I have opened for some time. At a more modest level, all true wine lovers will treasure a half-bottle of good sherry. I have been spoiling myself with the odd glass of the magnificent Very Rare Dry Amontillado from Marks & Spencer (€12).
There are all sorts of gadgets, gizmos and other wine accessories, often expensive and frequently pointless. A nice decanter (Mitchell & Son, Terroirs and Jus de Vine have very good selections) or a set of glasses are probably the best bet. The one gadget I do use frequently is the Coravin, a cunning device that allows you to extract a glass (or more) of wine from a bottle without actually opening it. You can then return for a second glass months later. This is especially useful for sweet wines and port, but it does work with any wine. They even have a screwcap version available now. The only downside is the price; expect to pay around €300 (from wine shops nationwide).
I covered whiskey a few weeks back, but a subscription to Irish Whiskey Magazine (see irishwhiskeymagazine.com) for details, will provide a year’s reading for the aficionado. Lastly, if you have a nondrinking friend or relative, they should be delighted with a bottle of the excellent Seedlip Spice alcohol-free spirit, €32.50 from specialist retailers, including Mitchell & Son and Celtic Whiskey.
Lismore Reserve Chardonnay 2016, Greyton, South Africa
Californian Samantha O’Keeffe has crafted a superb, elegant wine with layers of lightly honeyed toasty soft fruit, a subtle touch of vanilla and a long mineral finish. Up there with the very best white wines I tasted in 2017.
Littorai Pinot Noir 2015, Sonoma Coast, California
A wonderfully elegant refined Pinot Noir offering complex, light, refreshing raspberry and red cherry fruits, good acidity and a touch of oak on the finish. With salmon, roast duck or goose.
Stockists: Blackrock Cellar; Bradleys; Clontarf Wines; Fresh Outlets; Green Man Wines; Jus de Vine; Kelly’s; O’Briens; Power & Co; Red Island; Vanilla Grape; wineonline.ie; World Wide Wines.
L Bénard-Pitois Premier Cru Réserve Brut (Magnum)
12%, €75 (€33.95 per bottle)
Make a statement with a magnum of Champagne; the floral, stylishly fruity Bénard-Pitois would be ideal. A complete Champagne, floral and stylish, with a complex blend of fruit and brioche on the palate.
Stockists: Whelehan’s, Loughlinstown
Krug 2004 Champagne
A supremely elegant Champagne with toasted nuts, brioche, orange and lemon zest, and ripe peaches in perfect subtle harmony. A wine of great finesse and sophistication.
Stockists: Select O’Briens stores and select retailers