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The best wines to drink with fish and seafood


First published in the Irish Times, Saturday, 1st September, 2018

I don’t think I have ever written a bucket list or settled on a deathbed meal. I like too many things, and in any case everything depends on the people around you. With wine, the greatest vintage from the finest estate will never match a modest glass in good company.

I do know that my deathbed meal would include fish and shellfish, and lots of it. I live a few hundred metres from the sea and find it incredibly frustrating that I have to travel long distances to find decent fresh seafood – the greatest of which requires little or no adornment. Herbs and lemon or lime, mayonnaise or melted butter usually suffice.

Some years ago the highlight of my small but perfectly formed stag weekend was dinner at Chez Youen in Baltimore, in Co Cork, where we devoured an enormous platter of plain shellfish, multiple bottles of Muscadet, and sparkling wine from Mas de Daumas Gassac.

So before we move on to autumnal reds, a final feast of everything good that comes from the sea and the wines to go with them. There is something wonderfully perfect about a piece of spanking fresh fish and a glass of chilled white wine. (You can, of course, drink chilled light red wines, but I usually crack open a white.)

Crab would definitely feature in my meal, preferably cold, in a salad with mayonnaise, and mounds of herbs and citrus. As a child I was tasked with shelling freshly cooked crab for dinner. A few shards of shell merely proved its authenticity. Sadly I was too young to enjoy one of life’s great matches: crab and Riesling.

The crab would not be pasteurised and tasteless, its richness countered by the zip and freshness of the Riesling. Austria, Germany and Alsace, in northeastern France, all produce great Riesling, but today I choose Australia, a country that produces a lime-scented version that is heavenly with crab.

Mussels and Muscadet (or the delicious vinho verde below) might come before the crab, then fresh Atlantic prawns with a home-made lemon-garlic mayonnaise. I would find room for scallops, too, probably seared in butter. The prawns and scallops have a sweetness that goes perfectly with a creamy, fruit-filled Chardonnay. Then on to hake, which to my mind is superior to cod, salmon and all the basses and breams. The only fish that compare are turbot, John Dory and black sole. Chardonnay would do nicely again, or an Austrian Grüner Veltliner, or maybe an Albariño from Spain.

For most people the ultimate luxury is lobster. I prefer crab but will happily eat both. Recently, at a friend’s 50th, we ate lobster and drank Champagne – an indulgence that works so well. And only then would we start on the meat, followed by the cheese.

Bottles of the Week

Chardonnay 2016, Antech, IGP pays d’Oc
13%, €13.95
A medium-bodied, oak-free Chardonnay with attractive ripe exotic fruits – melon, peach and pineapple. Perfect with scallops and prawns. Stockists: Wines Direct, Mullingar, Co Westmeath, and Arnotts, Dublin,

Pequenos Rebentos Vinho Verde 2017
11.5%, €15.50
Delicious, fruit-filled, lip-smacking wine; fresh zingy lemon zest and green apples. Light enough to go perfectly with mussels and oysters, but also with hake or sea bass. StockistsListons Food Store, Dublin 2,; the Wine Centre, Kilkenny,; Kelly’s, Clontarf, Dublin 3,; Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4,

Vickery Watervale Riesling 2017, Clare Valley, Australia 13%, €19.50
Floral, with a very seductive, refreshing, creamy palate full of lime zest and mouth-watering green fruits, finishing bone dry. Drink with crab. Stockists:

Granzamy Brut NV, Champagne
12.5%, €34.95 (€29.95 for September)
A stylish, lightly creamy Champagne with subtle red cherries and strawberries. With lobster for a real splurge, but this would also go nicely with oysters, and most seafood. Stockists: O’Briens,

Posted in: Irish Times

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Sherry – conquering the world, copita by copita.

Speaking at a tasting of Spanish wines in Whelehan’s Wines earlier this week (all part of Spanish Wine Week), I was very pleasantly surprised by the reception given the Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla sherry by many of those attending. Not everyone by any means, as sherry can still be a shock to some, but at least a dozen people said how much they enjoyed the chilled fresh wine with the (very good) tapas served alongside. It is a long slow battle, but sherry will eventually prevail! La Gitana is light, refreshing and bone dry, and sells for just under €20.

By the way, if you haven’t visited Whelehan’s in Loughlinstown, I would recommend you find the time. It is an excellent shop with a lovely eclectic selection of wines, and a very nice café attached.

La Gitana Manzanilla
€19-20 from Whelehan’s, Loughlinstown, Corkscrew, Chatham St.; and others.

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Something for the Weekend – a Tasty Riesling

Something for the Weekend – a Tasty Riesling

DSCF6387Pikes “Hills & Valleys” Riesling 2014, Clare Valley, Australia

I reconnected with Clare Valley Riesling yesterday at the Wines of Australia Tasting in Dublin. They had a delicious mature Pewsey Vale Contours Riesling 1999 at the masterclass. Back home I opened a bottle of this lovely light Riesling from one of the better producers in the region. Light, fresh and crisp with lime zest and green apple fruits, finishing dry. A nice aperitif, or even better with crab. The price drops to €15.75/£10.58 if you buy a case from Also available from The Corkscrew, Chatham Street, D2,

Posted in: Top Drop

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Two fine wines from Italy and Spain

DSCF6296Casebianchi Cumalè Fiano Cilento 2014

Vibrant fresh, fruity and interesting. Herbs on the nose, honey, orange peel with a nice mineral core. I am generally a fan of Fiano although I have come across a large number of very boring wines in recent months: this one certainly isn’t. It has real energy and a lovely texture. Sheridans, by the way, have a small but very good eclectic range of wines.

€21 from Sheridan’s cheesemongers.

DSCF6385Cantos de Valpiedra Rioja Cosecha 2012

This is a perfect (and very well-priced) example of a modern Rioja without any reserva, gran reserva or other designation. Smooth and ripe with cassis and red cherry fruits, well-integrated spicy oak and a very decent finish. A crowd-pleaser that cannot fail to impress.

€18.50/£12.50 from

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