Posts Tagged Mitchell & Son

Alcohol and wine: What’s in a number?

First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 6th October, 2018.

For many wine drinkers, the most important part of a wine label is not the producer name nor the grape variety, but the percentage alcohol. A decade ago, big turbo-charged wines were all the rage; now we are all looking for something a bit less alcoholic. But do we think light and elegant but actually prefer something a little more full-bodied? Lynne Coyle MW, wine director at O’Briens, believes that while many wine drinkers ask for wines that are lighter in alcohol, in practice we prefer wines with a little more oomph.

“At tastings many consumers love the higher alcohol red wines, but feel they should be drinking something lighter. I am not sure if it is because of something they have read, or they want to drink less alcohol for health reasons, but it is not being driven by the flavour or style.”

Wine is all a matter of balance. You will barely notice the alcohol in a hearty 15 per cent red provided it has enough fruit, acidity and other components. If you feel an alcoholic burn, then something, usually the fruit, is missing.

The hottest wine-producing regions are responsible for the biggest wines, and the coolest tend to make the lightest, most refreshing wines. A producer in a warm region can harvest earlier to keep sugar (and therefore alcohol levels) down; in cooler areas, a winemaker can pick later, or even add sugar to boost alcohol by 1-2 per cent.

Low alcohol wines (typically 5-8 per cent alcohol) do not seem to have a market in Ireland, possibly because too often they are very sweet and just don’t taste like wine. In my book, a wine of 10-12.5 per cent qualifies as light, 13-14 per cent as medium, and anything over 14 per cent as full-bodied. All wine labels must state the percentage alcohol by volume. However, a wine producer is allowed a variation of 0.5 per cent either way, so a wine labelled 12.5 per cent could actually be 13 per cent (or 12 per cent). I sometimes wonder how strictly the law is applied.

A light red wine will taste fresher and more acidic; it has a very different structure to a more full-bodied wine and can be served cool or even chilled. But we really enjoy the richness, texture and warmth that is provided by a little more alcohol. As winter approaches, we start looking at the bigger reds, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Amarone, Bordeaux and Australian Shiraz. White wine is a very different market; the fashion is for zingy, fresh unoaked wines at 12.5–13 per cent all year round.

However, as Coyle points out: “Wine is not meant to be consumed on its own for hours on end. It should be drunk with food, and alongside water.” Then the level of alcohol matters far less.

This week, four perfectly balanced medium-bodied red wines.

Bons Ventos 2016, Casa Santos Lima, VR Lisboa
13%, €14
A big smiling mouthful of wine; layers of smooth ripe dark fruits with rounded tannins on the finish. This will go down nicely with most red or white meats, grilled lamb chops, or baked mushrooms.
From Bradley’s Off-Licence, Cork,; McHughs, Kilbarrack Road and Malahide Road,

Cuvée des Abeilles 2015, Château d’Auzanet, Bordeaux (organic)
13.5%, €14.95
This is an elegant, toothsome Bordeaux with spicy aromas and very agreeable balanced blackberry and red cherry fruits. Nice price too. Steak, served with a red wine and mushroom sauce, would be the local favourite.
From Mitchell & Son, chq, Sandycove, and Avoca, Kilmacanogue and Dunboyne,; Myles Doyle, Gorey; Wilde & Green, Dublin 6; The Wine House, Trim

Bardolino 2016, Guerrieri Rizzardi, Veneto
12.5%, €14.95
Charming sweet/sour morello cherry fruits with a silky, almost lush, texture and a well-rounded finish. Recommended with prosciutto/salami and some crusty sourdough.
From O’Briens,

Pegos Claros Reserva, Palmela, Portugal
13.5%, €16.95
Very moreish sweet, soft, ripe jammy fruits with exotic spices that evolve and improve with every sip. A warming stew of beans, pork and chorizo.
From Jus de Vine, Portmarnock,; La Touche, Greystones,; Grape & Grain, Leopardstown; The Wine Shop, Perrystown; The Wine Well, Dunboyne; Kelly’s, Clontarf,; Martin’s Off-Licence, Clontarf,; O’Briens Wines,; Donnybrook Fair,; Baggot Street Wines, Baggot Street,; The Corkscrew, Chatham Street,; Fresh outlets,; D-Six, Harold’s Cross, Dublin 6; Matson’s, Grange, Bandon; Redmonds, Ranelagh,; Morton’s, Ranelagh,; MacGuinness Wines, Dundalk,; Liston’s, Camden Street,; Red Island Wine, Co Skerries; The Coach House, Ballinteer; Nectar Wines, Sandymount

Posted in: Irish Times

Leave a Comment (0) →

Refreshing and elegant wines that quietly seduce

Sometimes I yearn for a little peace. Tiring of aggressive reporters loudly interrogating their prey on Irish radio, I often turn over to Radio Four just to enjoy the soft mellifluous tones of Eddie Mair or Martha Kearney. I have similar feelings with food and wine; while I love powerful food, so many dishes seem to be a huge blast of flavour. Recipes invariably include a mass of spices, chilli, vinegar, and sugar. Noise and power is the order of the day.

Last week, I had a bowl of homemade beef consommé. It was full of lip-smacking meatiness, with notes of sweet carrot and other vegetables. It was light and yet it was full of flavour, proof that less can sometimes mean more. Less allows us to savour the subtle purity of a food, instead of a faux complexity that often masks inferior ingredients and simply overwhelms and confuses. The same holds with winemaking.

I like wines that gently seduce rather than roughly grab you by the collar. We are all too familiar with reading tasting notes that use descriptors such as powerful, rich, luscious and mouth-filling. Loud food needs similar wine; heavy, weighty and mouth-coating, higher in alcohol, maybe with a little residual sugar and new oak. Or cocktails. But these days, when I want something to drink, I inevitably find myself searching though my samples for something lighter and more elegant.

Poached sole

This Easter, I am sure the pages of various papers will be full of recipes for lamb laced with the aforementioned flavours. Instead, I may tuck into a fillet of sole poached in a cream and white wine sauce. If I have the energy and the time, I will follow this with a bowl of chicken consommé, possibly with a glass of amontillado sherry, and then a fairly plain roast; lamb studded with garlic, or a rib of beef, served with gravy, steamed potatoes with butter and parsley or a creamy mash, and young purple sprouting or creamed spinach. The traditional choice for such a meal would be a white Burgundy followed a fine mature claret or a Reserva Rioja. All of these would be entirely appropriate, and would fall into the category of “quiet”. But there are plenty of options, and as spring and summer beckon, I will certainly feature more.

Each of the wines below stopped me in my tracks over the last month or two. I had tried all three before, (the Crozes is an old favourite that ages well) but they all struck me as wines with an element missing in so many others – interest. Each sip seemed to bring another angle that made me want to take another sip. They were refreshing, elegant and restrained. And quiet.

Agustí Torelló Mata Cava Reserva 2011

11.5%, €29
Delicately fruity, toasted nuts, a subtle creamy texture and a dry finish. Delicious sparkling wine; the perfect aperitif.
Stockists: (online only) and Sheridan’s Cheese shops.

Louro 2015, Valdeorras, Bodegas Rafael Palacios

A wonderful, sophisticated blend of citrus acidity and plump pear and melon fruits.
Stockists: Jus de Vine; 64wine; Green Man Wines; Corkscrew; Grapevine; Clontarf Wines.

Crozes-Hermitage Rouge 2015 Yann Chave

Sublime rounded, elegant, dark cherry and plum fruits. Ripe with a savoury finish.
Donnybrook Fair; Searsons; Mortons; Ardkeen; Clontarf Wines; No1 Pery Square.

Posted in: Irish Times

Leave a Comment (0) →

Agustí Torelló Mata Cava Reserva Brut 2011

Agustí Torelló Mata Cava Reserva Brut 2011

DSCF7172Agustí Torelló Mata Cava Reserva 2011


Light brioche with toasted almonds, delicate fruit, a subtle creamy texture and a dry finish. Delicious wine; not trying to be Champagne, but every bit as good at the price.

The perfect light aperitif, or with lighter tapas.

This is one of the leading family-owned Cava estates. Based in the Penedès, they remain loyal to the three traditional Cava varieties, Macabeu, Xarello and Parellada. This Cava is a blend of all three, aged for a minimum of two years before release. This is one of the finest Cavas I have tasted in years, and well worth seeking out.

Available for €29 from (online only) and Sheridan’s Cheese shops, Dublin, Meath and Galway.

Posted in: Top Drop

Leave a Comment (0) →

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


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



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




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


€13.95 per ½ bottle


Delicious refreshing dessert wine with luscious pineapple and apricot fruits.


Stockists: Wines Direct Mullingar

Posted in: Irish Times

Leave a Comment (0) →

Albizu Tempranillo 2015, Spain

Albizu Tempranillo 2015, Spain

DSCF7103Albizu Tempranillo 2015, Spain

Available for €11.95-€12.95 from Mitchell & Son; Avoca Rathcoole; Le Caveau, Kilkenny; Baggot St Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Corkscrew; Fallon & Byrne; Listons; MacGuinness; Green Man; 64 Wines; World Wide Wines, Waterford.

I have a weakness for unoaked (or very lightly oaked) Rioja. I love the lively aroma, the pure cherry fruits and the refreshing acidity. They come to together to form an easy-drinking but sophisticated wine, great for sipping alone or for drinking with a variety or red and white meats. This example, made by a Rioja producer, from grapes grown within the region, doesn’t actually have the name Rioja on the label, but it certainly tastes like it. This is a perfect example of the style. Worth buying in quantity for the season ahead.



Posted in: Daily Drop

Leave a Comment (0) →

Ch. Dereszla Tokaji Furmint 2013, Hungary

<strong>Ch. Dereszla Tokaji Furmint 2013, Hungary</strong>

DSCF6972Ch. Dereszla Tokaji Furmint 2013, Hungary
€12.50 from Mitchell & Son, chq, Sandycove and Avoca, Kilmacanogue

Lush rich peach fruits, lightly honeyed with some toasted almonds. If that all sounds too soft and flabby, it isn’t; there is enough acidity to keep it all nicely on track.

Try it with white meats, chicken or pork, with creamy sauces. It went nicely with my chicken in a mushroom sauce.

It is not often you find a Tokaji for less than €15. Aldi have one for a mere €7.99 in their current Wine Festival, but this bottle from Mitchell & Son is far superior. Furmint in usually used to make the fabulous sweet wines of Tokaji, but in recent years, producers have started to offer very good dry whites as well. This is great value for money.

Posted in: Daily Drop

Leave a Comment (0) →

Syrah 2014 Feudo Arancio, Sicily

Syrah 2014 Feudo Arancio, Sicily

DSCF6833Syrah 2014 Feudo Arancio, Sicily
€15 from Mitchell & Son & Myles Doyle, Gorey.

Lovely cool supple plum fruits with a sprinkle of black pepper.

We tried it with chicken baked in a creamy sauce. The chicken was lovely but the wine went better with the sheep’s cheese that followed – Cáis na Tíre, my new best friend.

I first came across this wine a decade ago over lunch in the winery, and have followed it ever since. Sicily produces some very good Syrah, and this is one such example. It is richer than a Northern Rhône Syrah, but lighter and cooler than a Shiraz from Australia, This was a massive hit over dinner with a group of friends. I also featured the equally good Nero d’Avola a few weeks back.

Posted in: Daily Drop

Leave a Comment (0) →

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.

Posted in: Blog

Leave a Comment (0) →

Primitivo Lamie dell Vigne 2012, Masseria Guttarolo, Puglia

<strong>Primitivo Lamie dell Vigne 2012, Masseria Guttarolo, Puglia</strong>

DSCF6603Primitivo Lamie dell Vigne 2012, Masseria Guttarolo, Puglia

€24 from Sheridan’s Cheesemongers, Green Man Wines, Terenure, and Mitchell & Son, chq, Sandycove & Avoca, Kilmacanogue.

A superb wine, powerful and concentrated with morello cherries and plums, a lovely freshness combined with a slight herby funkiness and a long finish with a nice tannic bite.

Try it with substantial dishes; I drank mine with spiced, grilled lamb kebabs.

I have to admit I deliberately ignored this wine for a week or two. I had tasted far too many pumped-up, over alcoholic and over oaked wines from Puglia in my time. When I finally coravined it to try, I quickly uncorked the bottle and drank it. This is an absolutely gorgeous wine, powerful certainly, but complex and balanced with brooding perfectly ripe, but never over-ripe dark fruits, and a solid welcoming earthiness. Apparently Cristiano Guttarolo is a natural winemaker, growing organic grapes, and using little or no sulphur. I also tried his amphora wine called Joha, which I really enjoyed, but for me, this was the real star.

Posted in: Top Drop

Leave a Comment (0) →

Nero d’Avola 2014, Sicilia, Feudo Arancio

<strong>Nero d’Avola 2014, Sicilia, Feudo Arancio</strong>

DSCF6500Nero d’Avola 2014, Sicilia, Feudo Arancio
€15 from Wilde & Green; Rua, Castlebar; Mitchell & Son, chq, Sandycove & Avoca, Kilmacanogue.

Seductive rounded juicy ripe dark fruits with a smooth finish.

A good all-rounder to partner most roast or grilled red meats.

Fuedo Arancio is owned by Mezzacorona, a large company based in Trentino, right up in the north-east of Italy. I have always been very fond of the Fuedo Arancio red wines; the Syrah, at the same price as the wine above is usually very good value. Nero d’Avola is a grape native to Sicily. Ten years ago, it was seen by many as the best the region could offer. The wines tended to be big, oaky and alcoholic. Then along came Nerello Mascalese and Frappato, two varieties that produced more elegant wines, and Nero d’Avola got lost along the way. However, provided the winemaker doesn’t try too hard, they can make very good, balanced fruit-filled wines. As with the wine above.

Posted in: Daily Drop

Leave a Comment (0) →
Page 1 of 2 12