First published in The Irish Times, Saturday November 4th, 2017
This week let’s take another look at what I call wet Wednesday wines; red wines, this being winter, that you don’t have to think about too much, but will cheer you up and make a midweek dinner taste that little bit better. Last Saturday I covered the multiples; today, our independent wine shops and off-licences.
The problem with independents is they are so, well, independent. Each has its own individual way of working and its own favourite wines that obviously work for its customers, too. It makes for a fascinating range of wines, usually hand-picked bottles with real character, but sadly too often not available anywhere else in the country.
Our independent wine shops have changed; while some off-licences remain resolutely traditional, many of the wine retailers now stock a much more quirky, eclectic range of wines. Quite a few of them morph into wine bars at certain times of the day or night as well.
For this week’s wines, I emailed 10 wine shops and off-licences around the country and then added in a few of my own current favourites. Most of the responses included a handful of Italian reds, a Nero d’Avola from Sicily, a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo or a Valpolicella. All of these tick boxes. If you ever find yourself in a restaurant not knowing what wine to pick, these are fairly reliable all-purpose reds that will cover just about everything on the menu. Every region of Italy has a local quaffing wine. In days past they were drunk instead of water, often at every meal. With modern wine-making, most taste a lot better than they did 20 years ago. If I ever opened a bistro or restaurant, all of these wines would be in the running for my house wines. They are fruity, crowd-pleasing wines that go perfectly with most dishes. Gabriel Cooney of Grapevine in Dalkey put it nicely when talking about his Poggerissi below: ‘it is a wine to drink when you can’t decide what you want: simple, approachable, great value and hits the spot every time’.
The wines below are all €12-€13, possibly more than you normally pay for your midweek wine. However, you should notice a big jump in quality compared to a bottle costing €8-€10. The winemaker is probably getting 50 per cent or more for a wine at this price.
SIYPS, which stands for sommeliers in your pockets, is a newly created online site where you can buy wines selected by a team of experienced sommeliers. Check out siyps.com. While on the subject of innovative wine retailers, a big shout-out for Dave Gallagher and his team in Green Man Wines in Terenure for their Best Wine Award from Georgina Campbell.
FOUR FINE WINTER WARMERS
Madregale 2016, Rosso Terre di Chieti 12.5%, €11.95
Light fresh juicy cherry fruits and light tannins. This is very good everyday drinking and great value for money; a great all-purpose wine to drink by itself, or with most foods. Tomato-based pasta dishes sounds good.
Stockists: Avoca; Blackrock Cellars; Fallon & Byrne; Le Caveau; Listons; MacGuinness Wines; Green Man Wines; World Wide Wines.
Ciello Rosso Nero d’Avola 2016, IGT Terre Siciliane 12.5%, €12.95
Light and fresh with delicious dark plum fruits and a supple finish. As with the Madregale, you could drink it by itself or with all sorts Of dishes; just avoid anything too robust. Pizza?
Stockists: Le Caveau; Baggot Street Wines; The Garden Shop (Ballymaloe); Blackrock Cellars; Bradleys; The Corkscrew; Fallon & Byrne; Listons; Green Man Wines; 64 Wines; World Wide Wines.
Poggerissi Rosso 2016, Rosso di Toscana 13%, €11.95
A lovely glassful of smooth supple juicy ripe cherry fruit. This is a real steal, a wine that has been one of my favourite wines for years. Another “house wine” that will go well with most white meats and lighter red meats, too. Creamy chicken and mushroom pie.
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2015 Le Salare, Fratelli Barba 12%, €12.95-€13.50
Another “house wine” in the Wilson household. I defy anyone to dislike this. Light refreshing toothsome pure dark plums, with subtle spice and a soft finish. Chicken or pork.
Stockists: Sheridans Cheesemongers (all shops); Lettercollum Kitchen Project; Clontarf Wines.