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White wines to drink with Christmas dinner

First published in the Irish Times, Saturday 8th December, 2018

In this country, the traditional white wine for Christmas dinner is Chablis or Mâcon, or maybe Chablis Premier Cru if we are feeling prosperous. These Chardonnays from Burgundy are a very good choice to accompany smoked salmon, prawns and a main course of turkey and ham for those who don’t drink red wine. If you are having oysters, Chablis is perfect as is a good Muscadet. Turkey by itself, like chicken, goes very nicely with virtually any wine, red or white. It is the trimmings that make finding a wine a little more complicated.

If you do want to stay with a Chablis Premier Cru, Whelehan’s have the excellent Domaine du Colombier Vaucoupin 2015 (€35) and Marks & Spencer the very stylish refreshing Côte de Lechet 2015 (€30). From elsewhere in Burgundy I was very taken with both the Domaine Olivier Santenay Clos des Champs (€29.95) and the St Véran, Château Fuissé (€20.45) both from O’Briens.

However, this year why not impress your family and guests with an alternative from outside of Burgundy? It doesn’t have to be a Chardonnay, but the Giant Steps below would make an excellent choice, or if you are on a budget, the Aldi Lot Series Lot XI Australian Chardonnay (€13.99) is a well-made, crisp, elegant wine.

There are plenty of options beyond Chardonnay. Most rich white wines will have the body to take on turkey and all of the accompanying sauces and stuffings too. Galicia in north-west Spain offers all sorts of great white wines, including Albariño from Rías Baixas, Treixadura from Ribeiro and (best of all with turkey), Godello from Valdeorras. These names may not trip off the tongue, but they really deliver plenty of flavour. Most have a richness of fruit that makes them ideal with a seafood starter and the turkey to follow.

Or you could cast your net a little wider and try a Grüner Veltliner from Austria (one of the great all-purpose wines). Marks & Spencer has the very well-priced Rabl Grüner Veltliner for a very reasonable €13.30, while O’Briens has the rich, luscious Käferberg for €24.95. Or you could treat yourself to the sublime Ott Fass 4 Grüner Veltliner (€27, independents).

A Riesling of any kind will go well with goose, the acidity cutting through the rich fatty meat. An off-dry German Riesling Spätlese or a drier Trocken would make a great match. Red wines provides the best match with roast duck and I will cover this next week, but a Austrian Grüner Veltliner would do nicely here too, as would a Gewürztraminer. Returning to turkey, other rich whites worth considering include Viognier (the best come from the northern Rhône) or a rich Chenin Blanc from South Africa. Whatever wine you choose, don’t over-chill it! It is a sure way to kill all of those wonderful flavours.

Four whites to try

Ken Forrester Workhorse Chenin Blanc 2017, Stellenbosch, South Africa
12.5%, €13.30
A delightful harmonious wine balancing crisp acidity, elegant rich peach fruits and a tantalising hint of toasted almonds. With salmon, prawns or turkey.
Stockists: Marks & Spencer

Pazo Senorans

Pazo de Señorans Albariño 2017, Rías Baixas
13.5%, €22.95
Very fresh and lively with floral aromas, and intense lemon zest on nose and palate, balanced out by pear and apricot fruits. Perfect with shellfish or smoked salmon.
Stockists: O’Briens

Louro Godello 2017, Rafael Palacios, Valdeorras
13.5%, €27
One of my all-time favourite wines. Textured and creamy, with plump pears and peaches, a subtle nuttiness, shot through with a lively acidity. If you want to splurge, their As Sortes (€50) is even better. With your Christmas starter and turkey.
Stockists: Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; La Touche, Greystones; Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown; Martin’s Off Licence, Clontarf; 64 Wine, Glasthule; Baggot Street Wines, Baggot Street; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock; Clontarf Wines Clontarf; Green Man Wines, Terenure; Sweeney’s Wines, Glasnevin; Lilac Wines, Dublin 3; Grapevine, Dalkey; SIYPS.com.

Giant Steps Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2017, Australia
13%, €29.99,
Soft luscious stone fruits, peaches and nectarines, with subtle toasted nuts and a snappy crisp finish. Perfect all-purpose Christmas dinner wine to drink with prawns, smoked salmon, turkey and ham.
Stockists: 64 Wine, Glasthule; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock; Mitchell & Son, CHQ, Sandycove, and Avoca at Kilmacanogue and Dunboyne; Wineonline.ie

Posted in: Irish Times

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Soave La Rocca 2015, Pieropan

Soave La Rocca 2015, Pieropan

La Rocca high res_NVQuite deep in colour with a restrained lightly nutty nose. The palate opens out with time to reveal a delightful mix of almonds, light peach fruits and honey. A wonderful subtle wine full of nuance. Don’t serve it too cold; the flaovurs are quite delicate. Not cheap, but worth it.

Spaghetti or linguini with either prawns or crab sounds good.

Pieropan is one of the greatest white wine producers in Italy. Nino Pieropan, who sadly passed away in April, can take much of the credit for rescuing the reputation of the Soave region, ruined by a flood of cheap nasty wines over several decades. Sons Dario and Andrea now run the estate, which is fully organic. The La Rocca vineyard is primarily limestone, unusual in a region dominated by basalt. The wine is aged in a mix of large old oak casks.

€36.99 from Redmond, Ranelagh; 64 Wine, Glasthule, 64wine.ie; wineonline.ie

 

Posted in: Top Drop

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Breaking Booze – its wine o’clock but there is a shortage!

Dire predictions of future wine shortages make for good copy. The media needs a constant stream of stories and tales of hailstorms, late frosts, flooding and other random acts of nature help fill pages, online and off. A year or so ago, it was northeast Italy. I certainly haven’t noticed a great Prosecco shortage in our wine bars, or any massive price increases. If anything the opposite seems the case. As well as providing news, such scaremongering may help producers push their prices up a little. Generally I ignore these tales of alarm. If there is a genuine shortage of one wine, we are lucky to have plenty of alternatives from other regions, although when the stories are genuine, naturally I do feel sorry for the unfortunate producers who may have lost an entire year’s income in a few short hours.

 However, it does now seem possible that we are facing into a worldwide shortage of wine. World consumption has been increasing steadily over the past decade or more, particularly in the US and China, two of the largest markets. At the same time, production has declined, mainly in Europe, where growers have been paid to grub up vines. To make matters worse, France and Italy, the two largest producers, have suffered a series of small harvests. Further afield, Argentina, Chile and South Africa are all looking at a reduced harvest in 2016. Australia and New Zealand both saw increases, and are reporting high quality too, but this is unlikely to make up for the shortfall elsewhere. As it takes several years for a vine to become productive, and a decade or more to yield high quality grapes, it could take time to address the shortage.

In 2016, well-known names such as Sancerre and Chablis suffered from late frosts in April and early May, and parts of Beaujolais from hail. We will probably see shortages of these over next year. The harvest in Burgundy overall is 20 per cent down on 2015 with some areas suffering far more. The finest region of Burgundy, the Côte d’Or, has experienced a series of smaller and smaller vintages, affected by frost, hailstorms and floods. Prices for the top wines have rocketed as demand has increased dramatically in the same period.

More worrying in the long-term is the increased demand worldwide for the finest wines. Consumers in China, Hong Kong and elsewhere are happy to pay large sums for the very best labels. In the most sought-after areas, the scope for increased production is very limited. It is likely that the great wines of the world will continue to increase in price, and we will have to look elsewhere for our wine.  I will return to this subject again in the near future.

ImageViré-Clessé Vieilles Vignes 2014, Florent Rouve

13%

€20

Sophisticated textured green fruits, underpinned by subtle hazelnuts, with real depth.

Stockists: Marks & Spencer

 

 

 

DSCF7121Johann Geil Pinot Noir 2015, Rheinhessen

13%

€17.95

Charming free-flowing light supple cherry fruits. By itself, with salmon, tuna or pork.

Stockists: Mortons, Sweeneys, Redmonds, Wicklow Wine: Mitchells, Listons, Jus de Vine, Drinkstore, Corkscrew, Blackrock Cellar, 64Wine; Grapevine.

 

 

 

 

Image 2Langhe Nebbiolo 2014 G.D. Vajra

13%

€27.99

The friendly face of Nebbiolo? Floral and elegant with very approachable red fruits.

Stockists: Baggot St. Wines; Clontarf Wines; Fallon & Byrne; Green Man; Jus de Vine; Searsons; The Corkscrew; World Wide Wines.

Posted in: Irish Times

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Dessert Wines For Christmas

First published in The Irish Times, December 20th, 2016

If you still have room for Christmas pudding after the turkey, tawny or vintage character port compliment it very well; all of those spices and dried fruits work perfectly together. I will certainly crack open a bottle of vintage port on Christmas Day and, in the unlikely event that it is not finished, I will polish it off over the next few days. However, I am not a great fan of sweet foods, so I am happy to leave the pudding to others. Instead, I will also open a bottle or half-bottle of sweet wine and have a liquid dessert instead. A good dessert wine should never taste cloying; it is all about the fine balance of acidity and sweetness.

Many producers vie to make wines with the highest levels of extraction and a hefty concentration of residual sugar. This may be impressive at the tasting table, but such wines can bully rather than charm. Lighter – and often cheaper – sweet wines can be much more refreshing. They go really well with fruit salads and fruit tarts, both lighter alternatives to Christmas puddings, and blue cheese too. Half-bottles are a very good idea, as one glass is usually enough, and if your partner (like mine) doesn’t like dessert wine, a bottle might linger too long in the fridge door. I bought a batch of mixed Sauternes many years ago, and occasionally dip into my stash for a treat. An open bottle or half-bottle will keep in the fridge for a week or more. Moscato d’Asti is a simple but delicious dessert wine. Low in alcohol, it is exuberant, refreshing and sweet, all at the same time. It is possibly a little too light for Christmas pudding but goes really well with fruit salads and tarts, as well as creamy desserts such as panna cotta and pavlova. It is heavenly with some very unseasonal strawberries and cream.

Ice wine is made by crushing still-frozen grapes, leaving behind the water content.  Originally a German rarity, they are now routinely made in Canada. They have very high levels of residual sugar and acidity, but I find them overwhelming and enamel stripping. Aldi have a good example if you want to experiment. Sauternes, southwest France and Alsace are just three sources of good French dessert wines. You will also find some superb sweet Rieslings from Germany, Austria, Australia and South Africa.Vin Santo from Tuscany is delicious but very intense, and a 5 Putts Tokaji from Hungary one of the finest of all.

 Mitchell & Son have a fine selection of dessert wines in all price brackets from €15 upwards, including a half-bottle of Chateau d’Yquem 2006 for €284.99 if you are feeling flush. I have also recently tried the delicious Castelnau de Suduiraut (€32.99, half-bottles €18.99) from Jus de Vine and Wines on the Green.

My  bargain bottle this week is a bit if a cheat – it is a 1/2 bottle. It was too good to leave out and finding a good sweet wine for less than €15 proved beyond me on this occasion.

DSCF7093Petit Guiraud 2012, Sauternes

13.5%

½ bottle €18, Full bottle €39.99

Very attractive medium-bodied wine with light barley sugar and peaches.

Stockists: Mitchell & Son, chq, Sandycove & Avoca, Kilmacanogue

 

 

 

 

Image 4Max Richter Veldenzer Elisenberg Riesling Auslese 2006

€39.95

8.5%

Delectable honey and exotic fruits with a balanced long elegant sweet finish.

Stockists: Redmond’s, Ranelagh; The Corkscrew, Chatham St.; 64 Wine, Glasthule.

 

 

 

Image 1Viajra Moscato d’Asti 2015

€16.99

5.5%

 

Exuberant fragrant light wine with intense Muscat grapes on nose and palate.

 

Stockists: Fresh Outlets; Jus de Vine; The Corkscrew; Mitchell & Son; Wicklow Wine Co; Donnybrook Fair Baggot St. Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Martins.

 

Bargain Bottle

Image 2Ch. Jolys Cuvée Jean 2013 Jurancon

12.5%

€13.95 per ½ bottle

 

Delicious refreshing dessert wine with luscious pineapple and apricot fruits.

 

Stockists: Wines Direct Mullingar winesdirect.ie

Posted in: Irish Times

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Montañar Graciano 2015, La Mancha

Montañar Graciano 2015, La Mancha

DSCF6869Montañar Graciano 2015, La Mancha
14% Organic
€13.99 from Egan’s, Portlaoise; Vanilla Grape, Kenmare; and Drinkstore, Stoneybatter.

Bright fresh dark fruits with good acidity and plenty of concentration. Medium to full-bodied with well-managed tannins on the finish. This is a lovely well-priced wine.

This went brilliantly with a leg of lamb, but any substantial roast red meat would do fine.

Graciano is a grape variety found in Rioja, but shunned until recently as it was very difficult to grow. It can produce perfumed elegant wines with good acidity and structure. The Parra family are based in the warmer La Mancha region of Spain. This wine combines the elegance and acidity of Graciano with the stuffing provided by the La Mancha heat. Organic.

Posted in: Daily Drop

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Cesconi Olivar, Vigneti delle Dolomiti, Trentino 2012

<strong>Cesconi Olivar, Vigneti delle Dolomiti, Trentino 2012</strong>

IMG_4684Cesconi Olivar, Vigneti delle Dolomiti, Trentino 2012
13.5%
€32.99 from La Touche Wines, Greystones; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6; Wineonline.ie

The Cesconi wines generally combine rich almost opulent fruit with a lovely clean nervy acidity. It is a very attractive balanced style of wine that goes well with food but you can happily drink them solo. I tried this in La Touche Wines, my local wine shop. This wine is a single vineyard blend of Chardonnay (40%) Pinot Grigio (40%) and Pinot Bianco (20%). It has luscious apricot and peach fruits, some subtle spice and a fine crisp acidity. Nicely mature. Try it with chicken or possibly creamy white fish dishes.

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16 Stops Chardonnay 2014, Adelaide, Australia

<strong>16 Stops Chardonnay 2014, Adelaide, Australia</strong>

Image 916 Stops Chardonnay 2014, Adelaide, Australia
12.5%
€13.99

Unoaked, with clean fresh apple and peach fruits. Good everyday drinking. Perfect on its own or with fish and white meats.

It has been a while since I wrote about an Aussie wine under €15. Over the last few years, the strong Australian dollar had pushed prices up. At the same time, it seemed as if the quality of entry level wines was not quite as good as in earlier years. This seems to be rectifying itself; certainly I was happy to come across this wine and the 16 Stops Shiraz at a very keen price.

Available from Blackrock Cellar; Miller & Cook, Mullingar;
Fresh Outlets; On The Grapevine, Dalkey; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; La Touche Wines, Greystones; Le Caveau, Kilkenny; Martins, Dublin 3; The Malt House, Trim; Power & Co, Lucan; Redmond’s, Ranelagh; 64Wine, Glasthule; Searsons, Monkstown; World Wide Wines, Waterford.

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16 Stops Shiraz 2013, McLaren Vale

<strong>16 Stops Shiraz 2013, McLaren Vale</strong>

Image 1016 Stops Shiraz 2013, McLaren Vale
14%
€13.99

Rounded dark fruits with a touch of spice and a smooth finish. As with the white, a crowd-pleasing, all-purpose wine to serve on its own or with a wide variety of foods.

Available from Blackrock Cellar; Fresh Outlets; On The Grapevine, Dalkey; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Kelly’s, Dublin 3; La Touche, Greystones; Le Caveau, Kilkenny; Power & Co, Lucan; Redmonds, Ranelagh; 64Wine, Glasthule; Sweeney’s, Dublin 11; Searsons, Monkstown; World Wide Wines, Waterford.

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The Hundred 2014, McLaren Vale Grenache

The Hundred 2014, McLaren Vale Grenache

IMG_1893The Hundred 2014, McLaren Vale Grenache
14.5%
€25.99

Big and powerful and structured, with lovely bright vibrant red fruits, all cherries and strawberries, with a sprinkle of spice. A serious dangerously drinkable wine to match up to barbequed meats and roasts.

Available from O’Briens; La Touche, Greystones; Green Man Wines, Terenure; Jus De Vine, Portmarnock; Mitchell & Son, chq, Sandycove & Avoca; Wineonline.ie; World Wide Wines, Waterford.

Shiraz and Grenache from McLaren Vale often has this distinctive delicious fresh quality. This wine is made from dry-grown bush vines, many eighty years old. Grown in a cooler sub-region of McLaren Vale, they produce wines with a lovely aroma and succulent round fruit.

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A Weekend’s Drinking

IMG_1888

A few very nice bottles over the weekend mostly grabbed from my stash of ageing wine.

Domine des Anges Ventoux Blanc 2014
13.5%

A blend, I think, of Grenache, Roussanne and Bourbelenc. Good quite rich peachy white with a bracing acidity. It cost around €13 a bottle (Cases.ie and Red Nose Wines, Clonmel), and is good value at that. Sent a few months ago as a sample, which I coravined to keep fresh.


Lettre d’Eloïse Chardonnay 2013, Coteaux Bourguignons, Bertrand Ambroise

13%

Good clean fresh, well-made Burgundy with a lip-smacking wet-stone character, light oak and a zesty lemon edge. Nice wine. Imported by Le Caveau. Sells for around €20 I think.

Westhofener Riesling Trocken 2011 Wittmann
13%

I have been drinking a lot of Riesling (and a lot of Wittmann) recently. Philip Wittmann makes some lovely wines. This I bought a year or two ago, and it has matured nicely; medium-bodied with light honey, beeswax and a subtle nuttiness finishing dry. Great sipping wine while making dinner.

Moulin-a-Vent 2008, Les Trois Roches, Domaine de Vissoux
12.5%

I love Beaujolais and this is one of the great producers. I bought six bottles of this six years ago and recently started working my way through it. Delicious light soft cherry fruits. Wish I had bought more.

Fayard 2012, Côtes du Ventoux, Domaine de Fondrèche

14%

I am not sure what sort of a vintage 2012 was in the southern Rhône but this was a very enjoyable wine. Medium-bodied with a wonderful purity of dark fruit, and hints of spice. A world away from some of the big, dare I say clumsy, wines of the Southern Rhône. I had kept it for a year or so.

Fontodi Chianti Classico 2006
14%

I bought six bottles of this and the 2007 vintage a few years back, and am both, but I think I prefer the 2006. Rich and quite powerful black fruits, cherries and blackcurrants, but with a nice refreshing streak of acidity and a good finish. Will keep for a few years yet.

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