Posts Tagged Godello

A Spanish Christmas

A Spanish Christmas

Spain has been one of the most exciting wine producing countries for a decade or more now. Relying on their own collection of indigenous grape varieties, every region of Spain seems to be offering great unique wines just waiting to be discovered. This week, four Spanish wines, two from well-known regions, the others from less familiar areas.

Together, they make up the complete Spanish Christmas collection.

Cava María Casanovas Brut de Brut NV Organic

Fresh orchard fruits and melons with a touch of brioche. There is plenty of citrus acidity, good depth and great length for a sparkling wine at this price. The prefect way to start proceedings at Christmas or for New Year’s Eve.

€26 from Green Man Wines, D6W; Pinto Wines, D9;; Corkscrew, D2; Grapevine, Dalkey; McCurtain Wine Cellar, Cork; Whelehan’s, Loughlinstown; A Taste of Spain, D2.

Made from a blend of 30% Macabeo 30% Xarel.lo 40% Parellada, this organic wine is produced on a small family-owned estate in the Penedes. I could write a book on the legal changes afoot regarding sparkling wine in Cataluyna. Suffice to say that there are some excellent sparkling wines being made at the moment, some under the Cava DO, others under the name Corpinnat, and still more labelled Clàssic Penedès. There are big moves towards better quality, and also to organic viticulture.

Gabo do Xil O Barreiro 2022, Valdeorras

Fresh and light, but not lacking in concentration, this has a lively minerality, peach and melon fruits with a lip-smacking dry finish. It has good texture and will probably fill out with time, but it is drinking beautifully now. Enjoy it with the traditional Christmas dinner starters.

€24.95 from Lilith, D7; 64 Wine, Glasthule; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Pinto Wines, D9; Deveney’s, D14.

The Godello grape, recently rescued from near extinction, is now responsible for some of the greatest white wines of Spain. Telmo Rodriguez (see below) was one of the first to become entranced by the wines produced from grapes grown on steep terraced slopes of Valdeorras. He has 23 hectares of vines here, and recently bought one small 2 hectare north-facing vineyard, which he told me, will be his final project.

Rioja Lanzaga LZ 2021 Organic

Fresh, with delightful, sweet/sour dark fruits and a tannin-free finish. Lovely purity of fruit, and decent length. This would go nicely with turkey, ham and all of the other trimmings.

€21 from Ely Maynooth; Green Man Wines, D6W; Lilith, D7; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock.

This is a traditional Basque Rioja, fermented and aged entirely in cement tanks using organic grapes from around the village of Lanziego in Rioja Alavesa.

Pablo Eguzkiza and Telmo Rodríguez met while studying wine in Bordeaux. Together they have been amongst the most influential forces in Spanish winemaking over the last few decades. Both of Basque origin, they were instrumental in reviving the winemaking history and culture in many parts of Spain. Their focus has been to work with indigenous grape varieties and local growers. Rodriguez grew up in Remelluri, the family estate in Rioja Alavesa, the Basque part of Rioja, and is focussing more of his energies here these days.

Lustau Amontillado Los Arcos NV

A lovely rich Amontillado sherry with dried fruits, toasted wood, mahogany polish and butterscotch. The perfect after dinner drink with walnuts and blue cheese.

€14.50-17 for a ½ bottle from Mitchell & Son; O’Briens; Morton’s, Ranelagh; Bradley’s, Cork; Redmond’s, D6; MacCurtain Wine Cellar, Cork; McHugh’s, D5.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s Lustau was one of the most innovative sherry producers, developing the concept of Almacenista and vintage wines. While a generation of other younger wineries now produce an amazing array of wines, Lustau remains the benchmark by which they are judged.

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Cheap white wines for summer


The sun is out and the holiday season has started in earnest; at this time of year we all yearn for a glass of crisp cool white wine to sip on a warm summer evening. I will always argue for spending a few euros more on a bottle of wine – you really will notice the difference – but there is something about sitting out with friends and family on the patio, at home or on holiday, that seems to make everything taste good.

So, this is one occasion where cheerful inexpensive white wines can really hit the mark. Don’t go too low though; be prepared to pay at least €9 and up to €15 for a decent bottle. For our summer drinking, we need something light in alcohol, preferably 12 per cent, but never more than 13.5 per cent, and definitely unoaked; we want to really enjoy those pure fresh fruits.

Lighter whites can be served well-chilled, anything from 7-9 °C. Ice buckets will over-chill your wine and mask any flavour, but in the heat it will warm up quickly in your glass.


Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is probably the most consistent white wine of all, which may help explain its popularity. For €10-€15, every supermarket will have several options, all of which can be guaranteed to deliver those signature lifted aromas, fresh lime zesty acidity and those mouth-watering lightly tropical  fruits. It may not please wine snobs, but it does deliver a reliable, fruit-filled glass of wine, perfect on sunny days, with or without food. Having tasted my way around most, I would recommend the Villa Maria or the Insight Sauvignon Blanc (O’Briens) for €12.95. Outside of New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc from Chile is also a good bet. Tesco currently has the Santa Rita 120 for €9.

Muscadet is one of my favourite summer whites, and these days, a fairly reliable option for light easy drinking; Tesco has an own label Muscadet for €10 and O’Briens the very enjoyable Domaine de la Chauvinière at €11.20 for the next few days. Pay a few euros more, and there are some seriously good Muscadets available at around €20. O’Briens also has the Bougrier Sauvignon Blanc, a previous bottle of the week, for €9.99.

Portuguese flavours

I featured Portuguese wines a month or so ago, and these offer amazing value for money and a unique set of flavours. You could also look to Rías Baixas from Spain (Mitchell & Son currently has the award-winning Baratín for €14.95), or to Rueda for both Sauvignon Blanc and wines made from the local Verdejo grape.

Riesling from Australia, Germany, Austria or Alsace also offers perfect summer drinking; from the south of France look out for Picpoul de Pinet or Marsanne from the south of France; Aldi currently has the very quaffable Exquisite Marsanne for €8.99.

Bottles of the Week

Exquisite Muscadet de Sèvre & Maine sur Lie 2017 12.5%, €8.99
Soft easy green fruits with a nice touch of lemon zest. Solo or with mussels.
Stockist Aldi

Alma de Blanco Godello 2017, Monterrei 13%, €11.20 (down from €14.95 until July 8th)
Succulent and ripe with fresh tropical pineapple and pear fruits. Nicely textured wine to drink before dinner or with  dishes.
Stockist O’Briens

Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Marlborough 12.5%, €12 (€10 on promotion) 
Classic Marlborough Sauvignon with lifted floral aromas, fresh gooseberry, kiwi and passionfruit, with plenty of zingy lime juice. With seafood and summer salads.
Stockist Tesco

Badajo 2017, Rueda, Spain 12.5%, €13.50-€14.50
A great Spanish alternative to Sauvignon, Verdejo, blended here with Viura, is aromatic, with medium-bodied pear and peach fruits, brought to life by vibrant lemon zest. Perfect by itself or with chicken salads.
Stockists Morton’s, Ranelagh,; World Wide Wines, Waterford,; Sweeney’s Wines, Glasnevin,; Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 2,; Liston’s, Dublin 2,; Wicklow Wine Co, Wicklow,; Lilac Wines, Dublin 3,; Clontarf Wines,; 64 Wine, Glasthule,; Fresh Outlets, Dublin,

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Go off the beaten track for your wines this Christmas

First published in The Irish Times, December 16th, 2017

We are creatures of habit. I know people who drink the same wine with the same Christmas dinner every year. It is part of a comforting ritual. Mine is to start the meal with a magnum of Champagne. This year, the magnum cupboard is looking distinctly bare, so I will have to change my ways.

Standing in a wine shop last year for an hour or two, signing copies of my book, I watched a steady stream of customers heading straight to large displays of Chablis Premier Cru and Mâcon, and then on to three huge piles of Rioja Reserva, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Saint–Émilion Grand Cru. There is nothing wrong with these choices, in fact there is a lot to recommend them. Both Mâcon and Chablis are 100 per cent Chardonnay, a variety that pairs very nicely with fish (including smoked salmon) or shellfish as a starter, and with turkey too. Softer-fruited reds such as Rioja Reserva, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and a Merlot-based Bordeaux make a fine foil for turkey.

But this year, instead of staying with the usual favourites, why not be a bit more adventurous and go for an alternative Christmas, with wines a little (or a lot) off the beaten track? Christmas is not really the time to have a theme, but I think I might go Spanish, simply because I have been enjoyed so many of their wines over the last 12 months. This would allow me to include a reviving glass of chilled crisp fino sherry to sip while finishing off the preparations, followed by a glass of Cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, and a few nibbles as an aperitif. With the meal, I could start off with a Godello from Valdeorras or Monterrei in Galicia, and then try a soft ripe Garnacha, a more powerful Ribera del Duero, or an elegant Mencía from Ribera Sacra or Bierzo with the turkey. You will find examples of all the above in most independent wine shops and O’Briens.

Alternatively, you could pick and choose from other countries. The Bellavista Grand Cuvée Brut (€47.99, independents) is a superb Italian sparkling wine, or there is the very tasty dry sparkling Sangiovese Spumante Rosé from Bollamatta (€30, independents). Or furthest off the beaten track, Marks & Spencer have the (delicious) sparkling red Lambrusco Reggiano Secco for €13.30.

From South Africa, I would be sorely tempted to indulge in the superb Lismore Reserve Chardonnay (€39.90, independents) one of the very best white wines I tasted in 2017. For a red, an Australian Grenache [I featured the excellent Willunga 100 (€17.99, independents) a few weeks ago], or the full rich d’Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz (€20, independents, O’Briens and Supervalu) would both do very nicely.

Llopart Brut Reserva NV, Cava, Organic

11.5%, €29.95
Seductive and stimulating with distinctive soft ripe white fruits, hints of brioche and a lovely lingering dry finish. The perfect way to get festivities going.
Stockists: Corkscrew; Mitchell & Sons; Redmond’s.

Via Arxentea 2016, Monterrei

13%, €18.50
A Godello blend with plump melon and green apple fruits that fill the mouth, perfectly balanced by a refreshing crisp acidity. By itself, with your starter, or even the turkey.
Stockists: Kelly’s, Clontarf; Sweeney’s; The Coach House; 64 Wines; Liston’s; Baggot Street Wines.

 Tolo do Xisto 2015, Ribera Sacra
13.5%, €23.95

Ribeira Sacra

13.5%, €22
An enchanting mix of ripe red cherry fruits and savoury liquorice in a very stylish elegant wine. A perfect partner for turkey, goose or duck.
Stockists: O’Briens

 Pago de los Capellanes Joven 2016, Ribero del Duero

13.5%, €22
An utterly charming rich smooth wine with supple pure dark fruits and a rounded finish. This would go nicely with turkey, ham or any red meat.
Stockists: Mitchell & Sons, chq, Glasthule, Avoca Kilmacanogue & Dunboyne; Myles Doyles, Gorey.

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The delicious white wines of Rafael Palacios


Regular readers will know that I am a fan of both the Godello grape and Valdeorras, the region where most of it is grown. The white wines are amongst the best, if not the best being produced in Spain at the moment (with the obvious exception of sherry). In style, with their mouth-filling fruit and excellent acidity, they have a certain resemblance to Burgundy, although usually without the oak-ageing. The quality of the wines has been recognized over the last few years, and they are now starting to take their place alongside Rías Baixas on discerning wine lists in Ireland. Yet back in the 1970’s, the grape had almost disappeared, replaced by Palomino and Alicante Bouschet. It was largely thanks to a small number of local activists, and two men from Rioja, that Godello was saved from extinction. One of those was Rafael Palacios.

Rafael Palacios is youngest of nine children. Most of the Palacios Remondo family are based in the Rioja region where they run an eponymous wine company, a restaurant and a hotel. Brother Alvaro Palacios is famous for being part of the quintet that revived the Priorat region in Catalunya, and now produces Finca Dofi and l’Ermita, two of Spain’s most revered (and expensive) wines. A nephew runs a joint venture with Alvaro in Bierzo close to Valdeorras. Rafael Palacios was always interested in white wine. On the family estate in Rioja, he pestered his father to allow him produce one; ‘I was young, I was insistent, says Rafale, ‘My father eventually allowed me to do Placet’. The white wine of Bodegas Palacios Remondo quickly became one of the most admired in Spain. ‘Then’, says Rafael, ‘In 1997 or 1998 a bottle of Godello passed my mouth. I found it completely unique as a Galician wine, a balance of Atlantic influences and richness, glycerol and body. With an altimeter in my hand I looked for the highest vineyards in Valdeorras.’

Valdeorras means Valley of Gold – the Romans mined gold here. They planted grapes when they had exhausted the mines. Over the last decade, the area has been completely revived. New plantings and new wineries abound. There are now some 2,000 growers, and 45 wineries. 90% of the wine is consumed in Spain. The climate is mainly continental but does have some Atlantic influences. The best vineyards are high up on the slopes at 500 metres, where the soils are granite and slate. The Palacios vineyards are largely in the granitic soils of Val do Bibei, one of three valleys in the D.O. They now own or farm over 100 separate parcels of vines.


All three Palacios wines are aged in oak barrels, usually 500 litres, but any oak influence is very much in the background. Louro has some Treixadura (another local grape with real potential) blended in. Sadly the entry-level Bolo which sold for a bargain €17, is no more. Reading between the lines of what Palacios said, prices are rising and growers are increasing yields as Valdeorras becomes more popular. It is difficult for him to source good quality grapes (Bolo was partly made from bought-in grapes) at a reasonable price. The 2016 Sorte Antiga is the first vintage of this wine.

Louro 2016, Valdeorras

(tank sample) Made from 17 parcels of vines, vinified separately. Nicely aromatic, with a delicious balance of fresh, lively citrus acidity and fat pure green fruits. Lovely wine. Around €22.


Sorte Antiga 2016, Valdeorras (Cask Sample)

Made from a small plot of ungrafted, gobelet-trained vines planted in 1920. It took Palacios ten years to bring the vineyard back to production –‘a very emotional wine for me’ he says. There was some skin contact in the winemaking. A quite stunning wine, with grippy, slightly pithy skins, a very saline intense mineral backbone and amazing length.



As Sortes 201, Valdeorras

Ripe rich melon and peach fruits, subtle grilled nuts, with a lovely elegant minerality and nice grip on the finish. Around €50


As Sortes 201, Valdeorras

The current vintage, and one of the stars. It has a brisker, more mineral feel than the 2015 at the moment, but still has plenty of voluptuous melon and stone fruits to back up the vibrant acidity. A great wine. Around €50


Sorte O Soro 2015, Valdeorras

A single-vineyard wine, north-facing and very windy, with vines planted in 1978. A herbal nose, hugely concentrated rich succulent fruit, backed up by that minerality finishing with a real flourish. Exceptional wine.


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As Sortes 2014, Rafael Palacios, Valedorras

As Sortes 2014, Rafael Palacios, Valedorras

image-6As Sortes 2014, Rafael Palacios, Valedorras

An exhilarating, sophisticated mix of concentrated rounded red apple fruits that fill the mouth, a subtle nuttiness and an intense saline, mineral backbone that adds real verve and attack. The combination of rich fruit and bracing acidity is unusual but fascinating. Not cheap but it compares favourably with a top white Burgundy, and is every bit as good.

I would try this with crab, grilled black sole or a buttery salmon dish.

I have written about Bolo and Louro before; As Sortes is the next step up the ladder in the wines of Rafael Palacios. One of the key figures in reviving the fortunes of the near extinct Godello vines in Valdeorras, Palacios gave a short but excellent master class in Dublin this week. I hope to get around to writing a full blog some time soon. In the meantime this wonderful wine, tasted at the master class. It is made from six small Sortes or plots of Godello, planted in the 1970’s.

€51 from 64wines, Glasthule; Clontarf Wines; Green Man Wines, Terenure; The Corkscrew, Chatham St.


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Via Arxentea 2015, Monterrei, Spain

Via Arxentea 2015, Monterrei, Spain

Image 5Via Arxentea 2015, Monterrei, Spain



Refreshing crisp dry wine with plump melon and pristine green apple fruits. A perfect balance of crisp and soft that bites and comforts at the same time.

A great aperitif, with shellfish, or white fish – hake or cod. I had mine with hake, served with spinach and mussels in a buttery sauce.

Monterrei is a very small D.O. in Galicia in North-west Spain. Its neighbours, Rías Baixas and then Valdeorras, have grown in populrity for their excellent white wines. I suspect Monterrei will be next. In the warmest and driest part of Galicia, Monterrei produces both red and white wines, the red from Mencía. The white wines, generally a blend of Godello and Treixadura (Dona Blanca is also permitted), combine the richness of the former and the crisp acidity of the latter in a very attractive way. This is a 50/50 blend of Treixadura and Godello.

Stockists; Sweeneys, Glasnevin; The Coach House, Ballinteer; 64wine, Glasthule; Liston’s, Camden Street; Baggot Street Wines.


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Wines to go with Vegetarian Food

First published in the Irish Times Saturday 10th September 2016

I am not vegetarian but would be quite happy to forget about meat three or four days a week. Possibly I live too close to the Happy Pear. However, when children depart the coop and diet fads cease (if only) I look forward to changing my own regime. This is the high season for many fruits and vegetables, so this week we look at how to pair vegetarian foods with wine.

There is still a tendency to categorise all vegetarian food as light and salady or very heavy and worthy. It is of course much more complex than that. All meat dishes are based around protein, and wine-drinkers usually try to match this to a particular style of wine. In fact, often it is the spices and flavourings, as well as the accompanying sauce, that should determine what wine to drink. Matching vegetarian food to wine follows similar principles and should not lead to any loss of pleasure. To start off, match lighter foods with lighter wines, and more acidic dishes with crisp white wines.

Rich white wines often partner best with sweeter vegetables, such as peppers, butternut squash, sweet potato and carrots, especially if they have been roasted, as well as beans, bean purées, and creamy dishes. Lighter whites go well with fresh cheeses – goat’s cheese and Sauvignon Blanc being just one example, but also Labneh, Mozzarella and Ricotta, as well as fresh herbs. Leafy salads and raw tomatoes also go well with lower alcohol, fruity whites.

One of my favourite comfort foods is mushroom risotto; a lovely big rich warming plate of happiness. I know many vegetarian friends are sick and tired of it, as it seems to be the standard veggie option in just about every restaurant – whatever happened to the once ubiquitous nut roast? However mushrooms in general are very wine friendly, usually red wine, and around this time of year, we even have wild mushrooms to consider. If you do like a nut roast, those rich caramelised flavours go best with red wines – a robust Languedoc, Côtes du Rhône, or a New World Cabernet would all do nicely. A few other pointers; beans are generally really wine friendly, happily providing the richness of meat as a background to the other flavours. With stir fries, soy sauce and fish sauce generally it is better to go with red wine.

I am a dab hand at knocking up a frittata/tortilla, invariably vegetarian, from whatever is in the fridge or garden. With this and other egg dishes, I enjoy a glass of light, inexpensive red. My most recent lesson came with a tomato tarte tatin (from last week’s Guardian); those intense, lightly caramelised flavours were great with both a rich white wine and a young Cabernet Sauvignon.

DSCF6871Terras do Cigarrón 2013, Monterrei

A pleasant light wine with plump pear fruits to pair with salads and fresh cheese.

Stockists: La Touche, Greystones; Jus de Vine; Whelehan’s.

DSCF6955Les Deux Cols Cuvée Zephyr 2015, Côtes du Rhône


A lovely rich Roussanne, filled with honey and peaches. With roast root vegetables.

Stockists; Searsons, Monkstown.

Image 8Palataia Pinot Noir 2014, Pfalz, Germany


Light perfumed red cherry and plum fruits, to partner mushrooms.

Stockists: Marks & Spencer.

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Bolo Mountain Wine, Godello, 2015 Valdeorras

<strong>Bolo Mountain Wine, Godello, 2015 Valdeorras</strong>

Image 3Bolo Mountain Wine, Godello, 2015 Valdeorras
€17.95 from 64wine, Glasthule, Whelehan’s, Loughlinstown; La Touche, Greystones; Blackrock Cellars; Sweeney’s, Glasnevin; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Baggot St Wines and Clontarf Wines.

Lovely refreshing pure plump peach and pear fruits balanced perfectly with a mineral acidity. This went down a storm at home – one of those bottles that disappears as if by magic! A good all-rounder with fish and white meats or simply by itself.

I tried this twice recently and was reminded just how much I love good Godello. In the right hands, and Rafael Palacios is certainly the right hands, it has some similarities with Chardonnay but with a character all of its own. Delicious wine worth seeking out.

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Last Weekend’s Modest Haul

Last Weekend’s Modest Haul


A quick run through of last weekend’s drinking; some very nice wines, and some great value too.

Bolo 2015, Valdeorras
€17.95 from various independents.

Delicious rich plump pear and peach fruits, good acidity – almost like a Chardonnay in style – lovely wine.

Marques de Concha Chardonnay 2014, Limarí, Chile
€15.99 Tesco & SuperValu

Very attractive rich nectarine fruits, a touch of oak/nuts, nicely balanced, well-made wine.

Tabalí Syrah 2012, Limarí Valley, Chile
14% €14.95 from Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown.

Lovely wine; dark cherries, savoury plums and black pepper, now smooth and very moreish.

Sancerre Harmonie 2006 Vincent Pinard
€39.50 from Terroirs, Donnybrook

I was given this by Francoise Gilley of Terroirs in Donnybrook with the instruction to keep it for a few years. So I did. And she was correct; lovely honeyed wine with a crisp mineral acidity, some soft peaches, and lovely length.

Früburgunder Trocken Edition PW 2012, Rheingau, Georg Müller
€27.70 from Karwig Wines, Carrigaline

Very attractive moreish wine with delicate piquant fresh red cherry fruits, some smooth tannins, a little oak and a very decent finish. I reckon it would go very nicely with duck.

Ch. Janoy Bellevue 2014, Bordeaux
€14.95 from Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown

Very attractive modern Bordeaux with generous plum fruits and light soft tannins. Very good value too.

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Brezo de Grégory Pérez 2014, Bierzo

Brezo de Grégory Pérez 2014, Bierzo

IMG_1623Brezo de Grégory Pérez 2014, Bierzo

Available from 64wine, Glasthule, Sheridan’s Cheesemongers

This is an enchanting fruit-filled wine with plump melons and pears as well as a touch of the exotic. There is a lovely lanolin texture on the palate, underpinned by a refreshing mineral streak. Perfect with all kinds of seafood, white meats and salads, but I would fancy it with a few plump scallops. Brilliant wine.

This is made mainly from the Godello grape, with a dollop of Doña Blanca. Godello is the grape behind Valdeorras, another delicious wine from north-west Spain. It is every bit as good, if not better, than Albariño.

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