Posts Tagged Marks & Spencer

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.

Posted in: Irish Times

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A Wild Weekend with Marks & Spencer

A Wild Weekend with Marks & Spencer


Marks & Spencer Go Wild

Well, not quite wild, but three wines from three very different countries, with one thing in common; they are all made by ‘natural’ methods, The first is macerated on the skins, the second and third fermented in clay amphorae with skin maceration. Whatever your opinion of natural wines, I think Marks & Spencer deserves real credit for trying them out. I can think of only a few independent retailers that stock such an esoteric range of wines, from the Mediterranean, Eastern and Central Europe in particular but from elsewhere as well. As for the three wines, they were all very enjoyable and worth trying out – the Fresquito in particular.

Fides 2014, Bosman Family Vineyards, Wellington, South Africa
14% and €22 from marks & Spencer

Skin macerated, naturally fermented orange white wine boasts the label. This has a slightly bready nose, and clean fresh pear fruits with a subtle breadiness and distinct orange and lemon peel. Dry finish. Interesting well-made wine that went down well with out roast chicken.

Fresquito Vino Nuevo de Tinaja 2014, Montill-Moriles, Spain

14% and €10.40 from marks & Spencer

If you are a fan of sherry, this is a must buy. Made from the Pedro Ximenez grape in a region next door to Jerez, this is a deliciously fresh light almondy, slightly earthy bone-dry wine – sort of a funky fino. I adored it. At €10.40 is offers fantastic value for money too. As the back label suggests, it goes perfectly with one of Spain’s gastronomic treasures – Iberico Ham.

Tbilvino Qvevris JSC Tibilvino 2014, Kakheti Region, Georgia

12% and €14 from Marks & Spencer

Sort of qvevri light, a qvevri being the traditional clay amphora of Georgia. Not as funky as some I have tried, but enjoyable with light yellow fruits, good refreshing acidity and a light touch of nuts. Made from the local Rkatsiteli grape. At €14 very good value.

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Meyer Family Vineyards Pinot Noir 2014, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

<strong>Meyer Family Vineyards Pinot Noir 2014, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

DSCF6916Meyer Family Vineyards Pinot Noir 2014, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
€28 from Marks & Spencer

This is a seriously good Pinot Noir. Light and juicy with piquant dark cherries and plums, very good concentration and nice length. Refreshing, but it has some depth too.

I drank it with roast duck (also from M&S) with my own version of petits pois à la française. Delicious.

I told the story earlier this week about how I first heard of this wine through my former scout leader. I have heard a lot about (aboot?) Pinot Noir from British Columbia, but very rarely had the chance to try it. In style this wine has a certain similarity to Central Otago, but is a little lighter. Pricewise, it stacks up well against the competition from New Zealand, Burgundy, Germany and elsewhere in the New World too.

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Canada, Croatia, Volcanoes and Boy Scouts – plus Arbois – a weekends drinking


Vina Laguna Pinot Sivi 2014, Istria, Croatia
A very pleasant Pinot Grigio with light tropical fruits. €14.95 from Mitchell & Son plus other independents.

Domaine de la Pinte Chardonnay, Arbois, Jura 2014

A beautifully crafted wine with fine green apple fruits, lemon zest, subtle hazelnuts and honey, very good acidity and dry length. According to Wink Lorch in her book Jura, Pinte have the largest holding of Savignin in the world – strange that M&S bought the Chardonnay? Biodynamic. €23.50 from Marks & Spencer.

Alonso del Yerro 2012 Ribera del Duero
A full-bodied, smooth wine, rich in velvety dark fruits, with good length and plenty of power. The kind of wine that would appeal to the hedonists/Parkerites amongst us. Sent to me by the producer. They were imported by Vinostito at one stage, but are currently seeking distribution in Ireland. Give me a shout if you are interested.

Meyer Family Vineyards Pinot Noir 2014, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

I met Brian Meyer, my former scout leader at a function recently; he told me how his cousins had emigrated to Canada decades ago, and ended up owning a vineyard. He visited them at a family reunion and they had sent him a case of Chardonnay, which he said was ‘very nice’. Two weeks later I was in Marks & Spencer and what did I see but the Meyer Family Pinot Noir. I drank it with roast duck (also from M&S) over the weekend. This is a seriously good Pinot, light and juicy but concentrated, with dark cherries and plums. Pricewise, it stacks up well against the competition from Burgundy, Germany and the New World too. €28 from Marks & Spencer

Benanti Etna Rosso 2014
Part of a tasting for a piece on Etna wines for the Irish Times. Both red and white were nice elegant wines; the red had more fruit and intensity than the white. Waiting for the pricing. Imported by Honest2Goodness.

Castel Firmian Marzemino 2014, Mezzacorona, Trentino
A very tasty light wine with leafy crunchy redcurrant fruits, and good acidity. Drank this with pork chops and mushrooms – worked very well. Nice wine. €15 from Mitchell & Son.

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Primo de Conti Rouge 2014, Bergerac

Primo de Conti Rouge 2014, Bergerac

DSCF6904Primo de Conti Rouge 2014, Bergerac
€16 from Marks & Spencer

Lovely elegant just-ripe blackcurrant fruits with cigar box and cedar wood, finishing with some well-judged tannins. So much better than most Bordeaux at this price.

Perfect with a dinner party roast of lamb, beef, or pork.

Luc de Conti and his family have been producing excellent wines, both red and white for many years, under the Tour des Gendres label. Based in Bergerac, right beside Bordeaux, they use similar grape varieties, grown biodynamically. Their wines over-deliver every time. This is a cuvée produced for Marks & Spencer.

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Rabl Grüner Veltliner 2014, Kamptal

Rabl Grüner Veltliner 2014, Kamptal

DSCF6906Rabl Grüner Veltliner 2014, Kamptal, Austria
€13.30 from Marks & Spencer

Grüner Veltliner is the signature grape of Austria. It produces excellent white wines, and has now become very fashionable in many key markets worldwide. So much so that it is now being planted all over the New World and even in places like France. This mouthwatering dry white, with its lovely toothsome pear fruits is a perfect summer wine; light, a mere 12% in alcohol, and refreshing and very reasonably priced too.

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Another weekend – Orange wine, Teroldego, Alsace and more..

Another weekend – Orange wine, Teroldego, Alsace and more..


Tenuta Valgiano 2007, Colline Lucchesi, Italy
Batič Zaria 2006, Vipavska Dolina (Kakovostno Vino ZGP)

See my blog from yesterday on Two Elderly Wines for the full story on these – both delicious wines

Three Alsace Rieslings, part of a blind tasting I did for the Irish Times. The CV de Hunawihr will feature in the Times soon. But the other two were also very good, and well-priced at €18-20 a bottle

Hugel Classic Riesling 2014
€19.99 I think; lively fresh crisp Riesling with a nice steely backbone.Nice wine.

Sipp Mack Riesling Tradition 2014
Slightly rounder with some red apple fruits and a crisp finish. Another very good wine.

Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits Les Chanussets 2014, Cave Vinicole de Bourgogne

Not often you taste a red Burgundy at under €15; I cannot pretend that this will compete with a Grand Cru Gevrey, but it is recognisably Pinot, with light sweet cherry and red fruits. Very gluggable light wine. This will feature in the Lidl French Wine Sale in early September.

Teroldego Rotaliano 2015, Italy
I received both a Teroldego and a Marzemino this week, from two different sources. Haven’t got around to the Marzemino yet, but the Teroldego is a lovely light summery red wine. From Marks & Spencer for €11.79, 12.5% alcohol. €11.79 from Marks & Spencer.

Grüner Veltliner Rabl 2014, Kamptal, Austria
A light fresh zippy Grüner with mouthwatering pear fruits at a very keen price. Great summer drinking. €13.30 from Marks & Spencer.

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Šipon & Slovenia

Šipon & Slovenia

IMG_2591First published in the Irish Times, Saturday 16th July, 2016

The south-east corner of Slovenia is one of the prettiest wine regions I have ever visited; rolling green hills covered in vines, forest, fields of pumpkin and maize, dotted with substantial prosperous well-maintained farmhouses, each with its own immaculate kitchen garden. The hills provide some excellent and varied sites to grow vines. The people are very friendly and open. It was a joy to walk around the narrow roads on a bright sunny June morning and very hard to leave. The default language is German. We are a twenty-minute drive from Austria and Hungary, and two minutes from Croatia; the recently erected barbed wire fence along the border lies unmanned, as the politics of refugee’s changes. In the past, the people of this area would have considered the city of Graz as their capital rather than Ljubljana.

The names are long and a bit confusing. The three main towns are Ljutomer (remember Lutomer Riesling?), Jeruzalem and Ormož. They tried calling their wine Jeruzalem, but people thought it was Israeli. Today most of the wines are labeled Štajerska, Slovenian for Styria, a much larger region. Grape varieties do not respect political borders. Many of those grown here can also be found in the neighboring countries. The majority of wines are white, although Blaufränkisch is growing in popularity and can be very good.

Šipon (pronounced Sheepon or Shipon) is better known by its Hungarian name, Furmint. It deserves far greater recognition as one of the world’s great grape varieties, responsible for Hungary’s glorious sweet Tokaji, as well as some delicious dry white wines in Austria and Slovenia as well as Hungary. Under other names, you will also find it in Croatia, Romania, and Slovakia. Mitchell & Son even have a (very good) sparkling Furmint from Ch. Dereszla in Tokaji. Dry Furmint is lightly aromatic, with wonderful bracing acidity, and attractive fruits whose flavours I find difficult to describe. It can take a bit of oak ageing, and matures very well too. It certainly goes very well with the pork dishes popular in this part of Slovenia.

I tend to run away from Gewürztraminer most of the time; it takes a skilled winemaker to balance the rich exotic honey-laden aromas and fruit with the all-important balancing acidity. The Traminer grape is a forbearer of Gewürz. Less aromatic, with succulent fruits and a lively acidity, the wines are worth looking out for, especially the Miro below. The western part of Slovenia also produces some fascinating, but very different wines, often with a distinctly Italian style. Sadly very few are available here for the moment. Slovenia is not a big producer, and their wines are in demand locally, so prices are rarely cheap. They do however offer very good value.

DSCF6718Verus Furmint (Šipon) 2014, Stajerska, Slovenia

Delicious light refreshing wine with plump honey and melon fruits.

Stockists: Cabot and Co, Westport; Grapevine,

Image 1Miro Traminec 2013, Stajerska, Slovenia

Gentle aromas of honeysuckle, dripping with honeyed ripe peach fruits.

Stockists: Cabot and Co, Westport; Grapevine, Dalkey

DSCF6715Dveri Pax Šipon Ilovic 2011, Stajerska Sloven

Aromatic, lightly smoky with delicious maturing exotic fruits, finishing dry.

Stockists: Wines on the Green, Dawson St.

Image 2Bargain Wine
1139 Dveri Pax 2015, Stajerska, Slovenia


A blend of four grapes come together to produce a vibrant fruit-filled wine. Perfect summer drinking.

Stockists: Marks & Spencer

Posted in: Irish Times

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Cornelia Swartland Red 2014

<strong>Cornelia Swartland Red 2014</strong>

Image 12Cornelia Swartland Red 2014, South Africa
€14.99 from Marks & Spencer

Lifted fragrant aromas, medium-bodied spicy dark fruits, and a rounded finish. Lovely stuff.

Full-flavoured white meats. Mine went nicely with brined pork chops and caramelised onions.

Marks & Spencer has both red and white wines under the Cornelia label. Both are made by Adi Badenhorst, one of the new stars of South African wine, and both come from Swartland, a region that has been growing grapes for a long time, but has become everybody’s favourite in the last year or two. The red is a Southern Rhône-style blend of Shiraz, Cinsault and Mourvèdre

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Colinas del Itata Old Vine Field Blend Muscat Corinto 2014, Chile

<strong>Colinas del Itata Old Vine Field Blend Muscat Corinto 2014, Chile</strong>

Image 3Colinas del Itata Old Vine Field Blend Muscat Corinto 2014, Chile
€14.99 from Marks & Spencer

This blend of Muscat and the unknown Corinto grape is exotic and intensely perfumed, with intriguing spicy fruit and a dry finish. Lovely wine.

Drink as an aperitif or with lighter salads. Perfect on a summer’s evening.

New World should mean new, right? Yet this wine is made from a vineyard that is no less than 110 years old, from a region where grapes have been grown since 1551. Some of the first settlers (or invaders really) planted vines in Itata, 500 kilometres south of what is now Santiago. They needed wine for the Sacrament. In recent years, a small group of producers rediscovered the ancient dry-farmed vines in this region, and have started to make some very exciting wines. This is a lovely wine, and a fascinating piece of history for just €15.

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