Posts Tagged Campo de Borja

Grenache – the perfect winter wine

First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 25th November, 2016

I gave a candlelit tasting to a wine club in Cork recently, post-Ophelia and pre-David. The subdued lighting was enforced, as Fleming’s Hotel had been without electric power for several days. It was a lot of fun, helped I suspect by the intimate atmosphere. The wines, all Beaujolais, were great, but I cannot help thinking  that on such a miserable windswept wet evening, we should really have been drinking Grenache. Grenache (or Garnacha as it is known in it’s native Spain) deserves to be far better known. Big, rich and rounded, with sweet strawberry fruits, these are crowd-pleasing food-friendly wines that are perfect for cold-weather drinking.

 Thin skinned and full of sugar, ripe Garnacha grapes make for powerful, heart-warming wines, usually with soft-easy-drinking fruit and a very low tannin count.

You can drink it without food, but as it often has a generous level of alcohol – 14-15% is normal – it really is a dinner wine. If you are wondering what wine to serve this Christmas, Garnacha would not be a bad choice; it goes very well with turkey and all of the trimmings too. It is also a happy companion to pub-grub – burgers, steak and kidney pie, ribs, sausages and mash, as well as most stews and casseroles. This would include a Provencal daube of beef, a Spanish lamb and bean stew, tagines and others, but it is a great partner for classic Irish lamb and beef casseroles.

 You will generally find Garnacha in warmer climates as it needs plenty of sun to ripen fully. Australia has some very old vineyards in the Barossa and McLaren vale; the Willunga below is made from 100 year-old vines.

Sardinia (where they call it Cannonau) also produces excellent warming wines. But the true home of Garnacha is Spain and France, where it is very widely grown, and often sold at rock-bottom prices. You won’t always see the name on a label, because in both countries, it is generally blended with other varieties. This includes high-quality regions, such as Rioja and Priorat in Spain, and Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas in France.

Bargain hunters will head for Côtes du Rhône, which  generally has at least 50% Grenache in its makeup, often more, and regions such as Campo de Borja and Calatayud in Spain. Most independent retailers and the multiples will offer both for €10-15. Keep an eye out for one of my favourites, Borsao Garnacha, (€13.95 Bradleys, Cork, Searsons and others) and the Flor de Anon Campo (€14.99, SuperValu), and Cruz de Piedra (€13.95, O’Briens). But possibly the best value of all are the many blends from the Rhône valley and Languedoc.

Tesco Old Vine Garnacha 2016, Campo de Borja

14%, €9

Layers of full-on warm ripe plum fruits a little vanilla and a smooth finish. Drink by itself but better with a lamb casserole.
Stockists: Tesco

Jean Claude Mas Grenache Noir IGP d’Oc

13.5%, €8.99

This has some very attractive smooth, rich black fruits and a nicely rounded finish. This would go nicely with chicken (and turkey) dishes.

Stockists: Aldi (for a selected period each year).

Willunga 100 McLaren Vale Grenache 2015, Australia

14,5%, €16.95

A heady mix of ripe strawberries, spice and dried herbs in a smooth full-bodied wine. A big smiling mouthful that will keep the winter blues away.
Stockists: O’Briens; Blackrock Cellar; Donnybrook Fair; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Martins, Fairview;

La Bruja de Rozas 2015, Viños de Madrid, Commando G

14.5%, €23

 Grown on granite soils, this is a very different, wonderful full-bodied wine with fresh fragrant red cherry fruits and fine dry tannins on the finish.
Stockists: 64Wines; Green Man Wines; The Corkscrew; Clontarf Wines; Kellys, Clontarf

Posted in: Irish Times

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My Top Ten Red Wines under €20 for 2016

This post came about as a result of a challenge set by a Twitter follower; to name my top five red wines for under €20. I have expanded it out here to ten wines. All have appeared in the Irish Times or on my blog before, and many in Wilson on Wine 2017, but I thought it might be good to see them all together. Doubtless they will change soon. In the meantime I have bought myself six bottles each of the Dâo, Geil Pinot, and Roka for drinking over the next few months.



DSCF7103Albizu Tempranilllo 2015, VdT de Castilla, Spain


I have a weakness for unoaked (or very lightly oaked) Rioja. I love the lively aroma, the pure cherry fruits and the refreshing acidity. Here they come together in an easy-drinking but sophisticated wine, great for sipping alone or for drinking with a variety or red and white meats. This example, made by a Rioja producer, from grapes grown within the region, doesn’t actually have the name Rioja on the label, but it certainly tastes like it. Worth buying in quantity for the season ahead.


€11.95-€12.95 from Mitchell & Son; Avoca Rathcoole; Le Caveau, Kilkenny; Baggot St wines; Blackrock Cellar; Corkscrew; Fallon & Byrne; Listons; MacGuinness; Green Man; 64 Wines; World Wide Wines.



Sa de Baixo 2014Sa de Baixo 2014, Douro, Portugal       


This has been one of my go-to wines for a few years now, and I know I am not alone; many of our independent wine shops do a brisk trade with it. The label has changed recently, but the wine is just as good . Succulent ripe red fruits with a smooth tannin-free finish. Light harmonious and very quaffable. A good all-rounder to drink by itself or with white meats – creamy chicken with pasta sounds good.


€13.50 from Mortons, Ranelagh; McHughs; Blackrock Cellar; Gibneys, Malahide; Avoca Rathcoole; Wicklow Wine Co.; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Baggot St Wines; DrinkStore, D7; Martins, Fairview; Browns Vineyard, Portlaoise; Red Island, Skerries; Probus, Fenian St; Sweeneys, Glasnevin; 64 Wine, Glasthule.



DSCF6516Borsao Garnacha Seleccíon, Campo de Borja, 2015, Spain


The label is fairly dazzling, and so is the wine. The Campo de Borja region produces large quantities of big ripe warming red wines, usually made from Garnacha. This is a warm hug of a wine. 14.5% alcohol, it is big, rounded and ripe with soft spicy strawberry fruits and a very decent supple finish. Fantastic value for money. Perfect for barbecues and other red meats.



€13.95 from Bradleys, Cork; 64 Wine, Glasthule; Next Door, Arklow; & Searsons Monkstown; Drinkstore, D7.



DSCF7060Acón Joven 2014, Ribera del Duero, Spain


A world away from the big tannic oaky monsters that once made up most of Ribera del Duero. This unoaked ‘young’ wine has forward floral aromas and delicious pure damson fruits. It packs a fair punch too, coming in at 14.5%, but you would hardly know it. Great value for money and perfect with roast lamb and beef.


€14.50 Red Island Wines; 64 Wine; Wicklow Wine Co; Clontarf Wines; Listons, Camden St.




Domaine des NuguesDomaine des Nugues, Beaujolais Villages 2014, France    


Beaujolais is finally coming back into fashion as we seek wines that are lighter in style. I spent a few lovely days in the region earlier this year, tasting the various crus. I also visited this estate. This wine is one of the best, and certainly superior to many of the cheap Fleurie you will come across in the shops. Wonderful aromas and pure sweet red cherry and blackcurrant fruits with a touch of liquorice. Patés, cheese and all things porcine, including belly of pork, ham and boiled bacon, as well as roast chicken.


€16.75 from Martin’s, Fairview; 64 Wine, Glasthule.




Roka BlaufränkischRoka Blaufränkisch 2015, Stajerska, Slovenia


Made by Irish couple Sinéad & Liam Cabot from their own grapes, both this and their equally delicious white Šipon are really good wines, and quite amazing for a first real effort after a few limited releases. The Blaufränkisch is a true vin de soif, with fresh supple cherry and damson fruits, but that really does it a disservice; this is a wine with plenty of depth and concentration. Well worth seeking out.


€16.99 from Cabot & Co;, Westport; No.1 Pery Square, Limerick; Grapevine, Dalkey; The Poppyseed, Clarinbridge; McCambridges, Galway.




DSCF6122Dâo Rótulo 2015, Niepoort, Portugal


If your tastes run to rich full-bodied reds, stay away from this wine. It is a delicious refreshing light red with a savoury edge to the clean damson fruits. Moreish, and with a mere 12.5% alcohol, you don’t have to deny yourself.


€16.99 from Redmonds, Mortons, Martins,Jus de vine, Green Man, Donnybrook Fair, Clontarf Wines, Blackrock Cellar and Baggot Street Wines




DSCF7121Geil Pinot Noir 2015, Rheinhessen


Charming free-flowing light supple sweet cherry fruits with a nice kick of acidity. Try it with salmon, tuna or pork. I have tried this several times in wine bars recently, including La Touche and Grapevine in Dalkey. It seems to suit all tastes, and is light enough be drunk without food.


€16.95-17.95 from La Touche; Grapevine; Mortons; Sweeneys; Redmonds; Wicklow Wine Co; Mitchell & Son; Listons; Jus de Vine; Drinkstore; Corkscrew; Blackrock Cellar; 64Wine.




DSCF5905Ch. Pey-Bonhomme Les-Tours 2012, Blaye – Côtes de Bordeaux, France

This was a really enjoyable wine, classic Bordeaux, with clean blackcurrant fruits, a seam of acidity running through, and a light dry tannic bite on the finish. I had mine with a roast shoulder of pork (Tamworth, from, excellent) and it was very good. I suspect it would be even better with lamb. Affordable well-made Bordeaux.

€19 from Green Man Wines, Terenure; 64Wine, Glasthule; Fallon & Byrne, Exchequer Street; Clontarf Wines; Mortons, Ranelagh.






Quite 2014 BierzoQuite 2014 Bierzo, Veronica Ortega


Medium-bodied and perfumed with fresh clean dark fruits; delicious, but if I was feeling flush I would go for Ortega’s Roc (at €30). I have been on a big Mencía kick for the last few years. I still love the Castro Valtuillé Joven, and the Brezo de Grégory Pérez, both widely available from independents, but I have really enjoyed this several times at home over the last eight months.


€19.50 from 64wine, Glasthule; World Wide Wines, Waterford; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Blackrock Cellars; Clontarf Wines; Drinkstore, D7;


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My favourites from the SuperValu Tasting

SuperValu Tasting June 2016
My standard intro here; as with the other multiples, SuperValu has no shortage of inexpensive wines, most of which are drinkable, usually with a few grams of residual sugar to smooth things out and mask any deficiencies. Fine for everyday drinking. However, excitement may be in short supply.

Here is my selection from the recent SuperValu tasting, showing many of the wines they source directly. SuperValu have made huge efforts to improve their range over the last year or two. There were some good wines. Two of the least expensive turned out to be amongst my favourites too. Naturally you should buy at the promotional price whenever possible.

La Petite Perrière Sauvignon Blanc 2015 €11.99 / €9.00
Vin de France
Well-made fresh easy-drinking wine; light aromas, followed by good well-rounded yellow fruits, melon and pears with good acidity. Perfect all-purpose summer white at a keen price.

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Armas de Guerra Godello 2015, Bierzo €11.99 / €9

I am very fond of Godello (a Galician grape), but you will rarely find it at this price. This has decent light clean soft pear fruits and enough acidity to keep it refreshing. You won’t mistake it for one of the top whites of Valdeorras (also made from Godello), but at €9, this is quite amazing value.

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Pouilly-Fumé Guy Saget 2014 €18.99 / €14
Nicely aromatic, with medium-bodied green fruits, good acidity and a decent dry finish. Try with salmon steaks or goats cheese salad.

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Flor de Anon 2015, Campo de Borja €14.99 / €12.00
A delicious big fat ripe fruit bomb, this will go down a storm at barbeques, or drunk alongside any kind of grilled and roast red meats. Ripe strawberries, spice and a soft finish.

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Cantina Tombacco Aglianico Benevantano 2013 €12.99 / €10
If you have never tried Aglianico, this would make a great gentle introduction. Aglianico can be a bit brutal, all tannic power and firm savoury leathery flavours. This however, has smooth rich dark fruits and a lightly tannic structure. Drink with roast red meats, rich stews and pasta dishes.

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Carius Cairanne 2015, Côtes du Rhône Villages €14.99 / €12

Soft rich supple ripe red fruits, with a nice herbal twist. A good all-rounder, but maybe best with roast white meats. Good value too.



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Glug and Grill – Barbecue Wines

Glug and Grill – Barbecue Wines

First published in the Irish Times, Saturday April 30th

I had my first barbecue of the year a month ago; a whole chicken stuffed with garlic and lemon. It was simple but delicious, the skin crisp and burnished. You can cook on the barbecue throughout the year (I know people who use it for the Christmas turkey) but once the sun comes out it becomes a much more attractive method of cooking. The Irish barbie is no longer a few sausages and burgers incinerated on a grill. Not only do we cook everything from fish to vegetables, many now have proper smokers or at least woodchips to add smoky flavours to a charcoal-powered covered cooker.

I divide my barbecue wines into three categories. There is no getting away from the idea of matching a big, powerful red with barbecued red meat. Smoked or heavily marinated and spicy meat probably demands the biggest wines of all. For inspiration, look to sunny countries and how they match their wine and food. Shiraz from Australia, malbec from Argentina and zinfandel from California are all classic partners.

With fish and chicken a rich white wine or a rosé is called for. I probably do not pay rosés enough attention in this column. I could blame the weather but I have to admit I am not a big fan generally. There are some very pricey pinks from Provence and elsewhere, but I am not convinced they are worth the money.

However, rosés can be great with grilled or barbecued shellfish, fish and chicken, especially if those with an Asian or Middle-Eastern marinade or rub. They also go very well with all sorts of salads, so they are a good catch-all summer wine. If you want to stick with white wine, a chardonnay (lightly oaked wines and smoke) or a rich viognier are probably the best options. You could serve a light, chilled red wine, such as a pinot noir, with grilled salmon or tuna.

My final barbecue wine does not go with any of the food; it is the aperitif! Charcoal always takes far longer to get ready than you think, and some foods, chicken in particular, must be thoroughly cooked (my best friend is a digital thermometer), so make sure you have something to drink while waiting for the food to be ready.

Avoid big, alcoholic wines, or you and your guests will be sprawling long before the food is ready. A light, well-chilled refreshing white wine is ideal; a Mosel riesling Kabinett, if you are having nibbles, or you could think about a lightly chilled beaujolais or Loire cabernet, or again a rosé, as they tend to be light in alcohol. This week’s wines are not expensive. I save my best wines for other occasions.

DSCF6516Borsao Campo de Borja Selección 2014, Spain

A delicious fruit bomb of a wine; supple, juicy, ripe and very gluggable.

Stockists: Searsons, Monkstown

DSCF6499Exquisite Pinot Noir Rosé 2015, Marlborough, New Zealand

Light summery strawberry fruits with a dry finish. With fish and white meats.

Stockist: Aldi

DSCF6519Espigueiro Vinho Verde 2015, Portugal

Perfect summer sipping wine; light, crisp, and sprizty.

Stockists: Wilde & Green, Milltown; John Doyle, Gorey; Mitchell & Son, chq, Sandycove & Avoca Kilmacanogue.

Posted in: Irish Times

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Borsao Garnacha Seleccíon 2013, Campo de Borja

Borsao Garnacha Seleccíon 2013, Campo de Borja

DSCF6516Borsao Garnacha Seleccíon 2013, Campo de Borja
€13.95 from Searsons, Monkstown

The label is fairly dazzling, and so is the wine. Campo de Borja produces large quantities of big ripe warming red wines, usually made from Garnacha. Along with Tempranillo from La Mancha, they represent some of the best value red wines available. Not just from Spain, but from anywhere. This is a classic of the style, with more fruit and intensity than most of the supermarket versions. Big, rounded and ripe with soft spicy strawberry fruits and a very decent supple finish. Great value for money, and perfect for barbecued meats.

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