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Vegan and vegetarian wine: does it really matter to the wine consumer?

First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 24th March, 2018

 

Given the surge of interest in vegetarian and vegan food, it is surprising that there hasn’t been more interest in meat and dairy-free wines (and beers too). This could be for two reasons; either wine drinkers (incorrectly) assume that all wines are not only vegetarian but vegan too, or vegans don’t drink wine.

 While your glass of wine is very unlikely to contain any animal parts, there are two fairly common non-vegan methods of clarifying wine. Traditionally, a great many wines were routinely fined with egg whites to remove unwanted tannins. (In areas such as Jerez, a number of delicious sweet delicacies are based on egg yolks, as a means of using up the leftovers). These days powdered dried egg white is more common. Isinglass, made from dried fish bladders, is also frequently used (it is used in beer as well).

Gelatin (animal parts) or casein (milk protein) are sometimes added for juice clarification prior to fermentation.

Producers argue that all of the fining agents are removed before bottling, but vegan website Peta suggests tiny amounts may remain. There are plenty of vegan options, usually products based on clay or charcoal, and these are being increasingly used. Natural and other non-interventionist wines are sometimes bottled unfiltered and unfined, and will therefore be vegan. However, an organic or biodynamic wine is not necessarily vegetarian or vegan. (I wonder are organic wine producers obliged to use organic eggs whites?)

Labeling

As far as I could see from my research, nowadays the majority of wines are vegan, but it can be very difficult to know by looking at the bottle, as very few give details on the label. Marks & Spencer is an exception; all of its wines have a back label noting whether the wine is vegetarian or vegan. Most are vegan. Both O’Briens and Wines Direct indicate it on their websites. Own label Tesco wines carry a vegetarian but not a vegan symbol on the back label.

Does it really matter to the wine consumer? Last year, SuperValu did some consumer research and vegan registered as being of less importance, with only 1 per cent of its wine customers showing interest (as opposed to 13 per cent for organic). However, wine buyer Kevin O’Callaghan suspects that the actual number could be higher, as many consumers may be unaware that wine is not always vegan-friendly.

Gerard Maguire of 64 Wine in Glasthule says, “Only a handful of customers seem bothered. We are asked about it less than 10 times a year.”

We will return to wine labels, additives and treatments again in a week or two. In future, as producers will be obliged by law to carry back labels with health warnings, maybe more will also include this information? This week, four wines, all 100 per cent vegetarian and vegan.

Mayne de Beauregard 2016, Bergerac Rouge

13.5%, €11.80

A Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that offers supple easy plum fruits and a soft finish. A good all-purpose wine to pair with most red or white meats – my bottle went down well with stir-fried chicken and red peppers.

Stockists: Marks & Spencer

San Simone Rondover Rosso 2015, IGT della Venezie

13%, €14.50

Mouth-watering tangy, sweet-sour damsons and morello cherries with an earthy touch. Enjoy with charcuterie, or grilled pork chops with sage.

Stockists: Wines Direct, Mullingar; Arnott’s; winesdirect.ie

Leeuwenkuil Bushvine Cinsault 2017, Swartland

12.5%, €15

Light and refreshing with very moreish crunchy red cherry fruits, and a smooth finish. Roast Mediterranean vegetables or pasta with a fresh herby tomato sauce.

Stockists: Marks & Spencer

Yalumba Organic Shiraz 2016, South Australia

14%, €15.95

A more elegant style of Shiraz, wonderfully perfumed with medium-bodied dark forest fruits and a twist of spice. Try it with a gourmet burger and chips.

Stockists: O’Briens; Dunnes Stores; Joyce’s; No21 Off-licences.

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Where do Ireland’s favourite wines come from?

First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 27th, 2018

Late last year the International Organisation of Vine and Wine, a Paris-based technical group, predicted that global wine production would fall by more than 8 per cent, or 22 million hectolitres, in 2017 from the previous year.

It estimated that the world would produce 246 million hectolitres of wine, almost 33 billion bottles. That may seem like a lot of wine, but it is the lowest level since 1961.

The drop in production is down to the weather; severe spring frosts in the France, Italy and Spain, the world’s three largest producers, followed by a long summer heatwave and drought in parts of Italy and Spain, all played a part.

It seems the best-known regions such as Bordeaux (but not Burgundy for once), Rioja, Chianti and Barolo were all affected. Apparently the fires in California had a negligible effect, as they occurred after the harvest.

The International Organisation of Vine and Wine also estimated that global consumption would be somewhere between 240.5 and 245.8 million hectolitres, so there should be enough to go around, but only just. Who drinks all of this wine? The producer countries mostly.

The United States is the world’s largest consumer, at 31.8 million hectolitres of  wine in  2016, followed by France (27.0 million hectolitres), Italy (22.5 million hectolitres), Germany (20.2 million hectolitres) and China (17.3 million hectolitres).

While China is expected to become the world’s second-largest market in the next five years market (current annual consumption is 1.34 litres per head, compared with our 18 litres per head), producers hoping for a bonanza may be disappointed. China is now the world’s seventh largest producer of wine, and this will certainly increase. But in the meantime, as an example of how the market is changing, China now accounts for 30 per cent of Australia’s wine exports, and is now by far their largest market. The same holds for Chile.

Consumption in Ireland is a tiny drop in this ocean at just over 80 million litres. Chile overperforms here, with 25.1 per cent of the market, although it is the world’s ninth largest producer, followed by Australia on just over 18 per cent. These are followed by the big three, France, Italy and Spain with a combined total of roughly 35 per cent of the market. These figures are based on volume and not value. We have always been keen on New World wines; combined they account for more than 60 per cent of wines sold.

Individual regions may be suffering, but we should not worry about an immediate shortage on our shelves. However, experts argue that we can expect more severe weather events in the future. Growing quality grapes is a complex business, and even a slight increase in temperatures will pose huge challenges for some of the world’s pre-eminent regions. On the other hand, maybe we will see more Irish wine in the future.

Four wines to try

Mas Buscados 2014, Tempranillo Petit Verdot VdT de Castilla
14%, €9.95 from January 29th, down from €13.95

A big, warm hug of a wine, filled with sweet supple jammy dark fruits. Perfect winter drinking with casseroles, roast red meats or hard cheeses. Stockist: O’Briens

Tesco’s Finest Ribera del Duero Reserva 2012
14.5%, €12 

A big, powerful red wine full of ripe dark fruits and spicy tannins. Locally they would drink it with roast lamb and pork, but this would go equally well with a juicy barbecued steak. If you usually drink Malbec from Argentina, this might be a good alternative. Stockist: Tesco

Cantina di Negrar Valpolicella Classico 2016
12.5%, €14.95 

Floral aromas with light juicy red cherries and a smooth, tannin-free finish. It slips down all too easily. Perfect with cold meats, mushroom risotto, a pork chop or lighter cheeses. Otherwise Margherita pizza sounds good. Stockists: Sheridan’s Cheesemongers (all branches); siyps.com

El Castro de Valtuille 2016, Mencía Joven, Bierzo
14%, €15.50

An old favourite that has returned to form with the 2016 vintage. A lovely, elegantly fruity wine with a touch of liquorice and refreshing acidity. Ideal with grilled breast of duck or a confit leg, but this is a pretty good all-purpose red. Stockists: Blackrock Cellar; 64wine; La Touche; Martins; Clontarf Wines; Baggot Street Wines; Liston’s; Drink Store, Manor Street; Lilac Wines; Sweeneys.

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Go off the beaten track for your wines this Christmas

First published in The Irish Times, December 16th, 2017

We are creatures of habit. I know people who drink the same wine with the same Christmas dinner every year. It is part of a comforting ritual. Mine is to start the meal with a magnum of Champagne. This year, the magnum cupboard is looking distinctly bare, so I will have to change my ways.

Standing in a wine shop last year for an hour or two, signing copies of my book, I watched a steady stream of customers heading straight to large displays of Chablis Premier Cru and Mâcon, and then on to three huge piles of Rioja Reserva, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Saint–Émilion Grand Cru. There is nothing wrong with these choices, in fact there is a lot to recommend them. Both Mâcon and Chablis are 100 per cent Chardonnay, a variety that pairs very nicely with fish (including smoked salmon) or shellfish as a starter, and with turkey too. Softer-fruited reds such as Rioja Reserva, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and a Merlot-based Bordeaux make a fine foil for turkey.

But this year, instead of staying with the usual favourites, why not be a bit more adventurous and go for an alternative Christmas, with wines a little (or a lot) off the beaten track? Christmas is not really the time to have a theme, but I think I might go Spanish, simply because I have been enjoyed so many of their wines over the last 12 months. This would allow me to include a reviving glass of chilled crisp fino sherry to sip while finishing off the preparations, followed by a glass of Cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, and a few nibbles as an aperitif. With the meal, I could start off with a Godello from Valdeorras or Monterrei in Galicia, and then try a soft ripe Garnacha, a more powerful Ribera del Duero, or an elegant Mencía from Ribera Sacra or Bierzo with the turkey. You will find examples of all the above in most independent wine shops and O’Briens.

Alternatively, you could pick and choose from other countries. The Bellavista Grand Cuvée Brut (€47.99, independents) is a superb Italian sparkling wine, or there is the very tasty dry sparkling Sangiovese Spumante Rosé from Bollamatta (€30, independents). Or furthest off the beaten track, Marks & Spencer have the (delicious) sparkling red Lambrusco Reggiano Secco for €13.30.

From South Africa, I would be sorely tempted to indulge in the superb Lismore Reserve Chardonnay (€39.90, independents) one of the very best white wines I tasted in 2017. For a red, an Australian Grenache [I featured the excellent Willunga 100 (€17.99, independents) a few weeks ago], or the full rich d’Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz (€20, independents, O’Briens and Supervalu) would both do very nicely.

Llopart Brut Reserva NV, Cava, Organic

11.5%, €29.95
Seductive and stimulating with distinctive soft ripe white fruits, hints of brioche and a lovely lingering dry finish. The perfect way to get festivities going.
Stockists: Corkscrew; Mitchell & Sons; Redmond’s.

Via Arxentea 2016, Monterrei

13%, €18.50
A Godello blend with plump melon and green apple fruits that fill the mouth, perfectly balanced by a refreshing crisp acidity. By itself, with your starter, or even the turkey.
Stockists: Kelly’s, Clontarf; Sweeney’s; The Coach House; 64 Wines; Liston’s; Baggot Street Wines.

 Tolo do Xisto 2015, Ribera Sacra
13.5%, €23.95

Ribeira Sacra

13.5%, €22
An enchanting mix of ripe red cherry fruits and savoury liquorice in a very stylish elegant wine. A perfect partner for turkey, goose or duck.
Stockists: O’Briens

 Pago de los Capellanes Joven 2016, Ribero del Duero

13.5%, €22
An utterly charming rich smooth wine with supple pure dark fruits and a rounded finish. This would go nicely with turkey, ham or any red meat.
Stockists: Mitchell & Sons, chq, Glasthule, Avoca Kilmacanogue & Dunboyne; Myles Doyles, Gorey.

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The best fine Christmas wines you can buy in supermarkets

First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 9th December, 2017

Some are sedate, refined affairs with polite conversation. Others are huge, loud, clan gatherings, semi-organised chaos with a horde of noisy children and even noisier adults. If your Christmas dinner falls into the latter category, then it is quite likely that your wine selection will be based on quantity rather than quality. This is not the best time to roll out that expensive bottle you squirrelled away for a special occasion. If you do open it, chances are that cousin Ronan down the other end of the table will knock most of it back while you are carving the turkey or finishing off the sprouts.

However, this does not mean buying caseloads of the cheapest possible wine. Spend €1 or €2 more and your guests will notice the difference, and thank you for it. There are plenty of very drinkable wines at anything from €8-€15. Today I’m doing a round-up of the multiples. I generally go for a bottle of fizz to gets things going (with nibbles to provide soakage) followed by a medium-bodied white and  red wine. Remember to provide interesting adult soft drinks for those who don’t drink alcohol.

To start off, Prosecco is hugely popular and unlikely to offend. I have featured the SuperValu Grifón (€9) before, or alternatively the Aldi Cremant de Jura is an outstanding bargain for €11.99. I would also recommend their beautifully packaged rich Astelia Chardonnay (€10.99) and either the smooth, elegant Rioja Reserva (€10.99) or the uber-ripe, hearty Exquisite South Australian Shiraz (€8.79). SuperValu have a very attractive offer of a six-bottle case containing two organic Spanish red wines, both of which would go very well with turkey, for €40.

Tesco’s Finest Prosecco Valdobiadenne (€17.99) may stretch the budget but is worth the premium, while its Picpoul de Pinet (€12) will make a nice change to Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc. For a budget red, it is hard to look further than their Finest Limestone Coast Shiraz, mentioned here before but a bargain for €9.

From O’Briens the ever -popular Protocolo (€9.95) is hard to resist, but I was bowled over by the Garnacha featured below. For white wines the new Duffour Côtes de Gascogne (€9.99) is great value, or the Yalumba Organic Viognier (€13.95) will go nicely with starter and main course. For sparkling wine, the Rizzardi Prosecco Frizzante for €12.50 will certainly get the party started.

Shoppers at Dunnes Stores should head for the Viognier below, and for red wine, to the fruit-filled El Circulo Rioja Crianza(€10.50) or the warming, spicy Visan La Souco (€11.50). Spar, Eurospar and Londis all have the smart, richly textured, buttery Couveys Chardonnay (€10.99) and soft, ripe Eugenio Bustos Malbec below from Argentina.

Tesco finest Prosecco Valdobbiadene

Tesco Finest Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore NV

11.5%, €17.99
Frothy ripe pear fruits, balanced very nicely by crisp lemon zest. Great on its own, with nibbles, or even alongside fishy starters.
Stockists: Tesco

LM_SOLAS_VIOGNIER_BLC_DETOURELaurent Miquel Solas Viognier 2016
13%, €12.50
A very seductive wine bursting with exotic fruits, luscious peaches and subtle toasted almonds. This would go down a treat with lightly spicy prawns and other shellfish, as well as turkey.
Stockists: Dunnes Stores

EBustos MB sc

Eugenio Bustos Malbec 2016, Mendoza, Argentina
12.5%, €9.99
A lighter, juicier style of Malbec with ripe plum and loganberry fruits overlaid with vanilla and spice. With turkey, ham and spiced beef.
Stockists: Eurospar, Spar, Mace & Londis.

TANDEM IMNMUNE

Tandem Inmune Garnacha 2015, Velle de Yeri, Navarra
14%, €14.95
A very moreish ripe bouncy red wine with herby aromas and vivid, pure black fruits. A real crowd-pleaser to drink alongside turkey and ham.
Stockists: O’Briens

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Wines to keep you warm this autumn

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First published in The Irish Times, Saturday October 7th, 2017

I cling to the dying days of summer for as long as possible, hoping against hope that the days won’t get shorter and the temperature won’t drop. Sadly, inevitably, the weather has changed, the leaves are turning and autumn has arrived.

As the season changes we move on from the lighter wines of summer to something a little more warming, not necessarily to anything quite as big and powerful as the robust winter reds, but we certainly drink more red wine, or white wines with a little bit more body and texture. We still drink fresh, crisp whites and light reds from time to time, of course, but many of us instinctively drink seasonally. Sales of rosé plummet, and of red wines increase, once the sun disappears.

Choosing a wine is as much about mood as about the food you are serving. I often find myself returning to old favourites, such as the Protocolo below. Like a favourite old coat or jacket, or a cosy blanket returned to the sofa, they offer a certain comfort at this time of year.

My favourite autumnal wines include mellow Riojas, some of which can have a definite aroma of autumnal undergrowth, as does mature Pinot Noir. Both are perfect for all of those game dishes that become available for the next few months, or pork with roasted vegetables – onions, butternut squash and root vegetables. If you add a couple of apples the white Château Saint Auriol below would work well. If you add a little spice a fuller-bodied Grenache or Shiraz would be perfect.

For white wines with a little more richness and body, go for Chardonnay, Viognier, Roussanne or maybe a Godello, from Spain. All of these work really well with white meats and fuller-bodied fish dishes. I had a great fish pie this week that was perfect with a medium-bodied Chardonnay. Chenin Blanc from South Africa also has that comforting cushioned richness that seems just right on a colder evening. I have also enjoyed several warming curries in the past few weeks. My lamb bhuna worked a treat with the Grenache Noir below on a damp Thursday evening; the Château Saint Auriol went nicely with a creamy chicken curry.

Around this time of year all of those back-to-school expenses start to bite. If you are self-employed the taxman is waiting impatiently for his annual payment. So, this week, four budget wines, all widely available and all well under €15, to keep us warm in the cooler evenings.

BOTTLES OF THE WEEK

Protocolo 2014, Castilla, Spain 13.5%, €10.95

An old favourite that is on song. Light, smooth cherry fruits with a hint of vanilla spice. Perfect all-purpose wine. From branches of O’Briens

Tesco Shiraz 2016, Limestone Coast, Australia 14.5%, €9

Instantly gluggable full-bodied red with generous blackcurrant fruits and a nice seam of acidity to balance it out. Serve with red meats. From branches of Tesco

Château Saint Auriol Chatelaine Blanc 2015, Corbières, France 13%, €12.99
Perfumed, medium-bodied, textured white wine with peaches and toasted nuts. Serve with creamy chicken or pork. From branches of SuperValu

Grenache Noir 2016, JC Mas, Sud de France 13.5% €8.49
Soft, seductive ripe strawberry and raspberry fruits. Another good all-purpose wine. Serve with red or white meats. From branches of Aldi

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Give Merlot and Chardonnay a second chance

Sideways (2004): “If anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving”

First puyblished in The Irish Times, Saturday September 23rd, 2017

Fashion is a fickle business. In the not-too-distant past, a wine producer wondering what grape varieties to plant in a new vineyard would have gone straight for Chardonnay and Merlot.

These were, after all, the most sought-after wines around the world. Given that a vine takes three years to produce grapes and a decade to make decent wine, predicting future trends can be a dangerous business.

Nowadays, I suspect Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Malbec would be at the top of the list for any prospective producer.

But a decade or so ago, Merlot was everybody’s darling. It is widely planted in North and South America, and elsewhere, too, is relatively easy to grow and produces decent yields.

The wines are very attractive, too, medium-bodied with velvety soft, rounded plummy fruits and none of those drying tannins associated with Cabernet Sauvignon. Even better, Merlot doesn’t require lengthy ageing. All of the wines, even the very best, are drinkable from the start.

How the mighty have fallen. Merlot became a dirty word largely thanks to the 2004 movie Sideways, where Myles, the main protagonist says ‘If anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am not drinking any f***ing Merlot.’

Suddenly, everyone wanted Myles’s favourite, Pinot Noir, instead. Sales plummeted, particularly in the US. Yet we continued to drink Merlot, sometimes unwittingly, as most of the red wines of Bordeaux and the surrounding area will contain some Merlot in the blend. In areas such as Pomerol, it makes up 100 per cent of the wine, including the most famous pure Merlot of all, Petrus.

As for Chardonnay, it may have reached tipping point when Bridget Jones began drinking large glasses to console herself after her latest disaster. Much of the Chardonnay produced back then was heavily and clumsily oaked, and often high in alcohol, too, when the world began looking for something lighter and fresher. Enter Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc.

This is unfair on Chardonnay, one of the greatest grapes of all, and these days made in a much more appealing style. In my experience, most consumers love Chardonnay – until they see the label. As with Merlot, the French have us drinking it unknowingly. Just about every bottle of white Burgundy, from Chablis to Meursault to Mâcon is 100 per cent Chardonnay.

These days most less expensive Chardonnays are unoaked and a degree or two lighter in alcohol. They make great food wines, but are also perfect on their own. A good Merlot is supple and fruity; a real crowd-pleaser, in other words.

So this weekend, spare a thought for two of fashion’s forgotten victims, and try out a bottle of Chardonnay or Merlot. You should be in for a pleasant surprise.

Aresti Bellavista Chardonnay Reserva 2016
13%, €12.99 (€10 on promotion)

A very well-made, medium-bodied wine bursting with peach fruits and fresh, zesty acidity. Perfect on its own or with salmon.
Stockists: SuperValu

Lettre d’Aloise Chardonnay 2014
Coteaux Bourguignons, 13%, €17.95

A delectable, elegant white Burgundy with floral aromas and free-flowing fresh green fruits.
Stockists: Le Caveau, Kilkenny: Fallon & Byrne; World Wide Wines; 64 Wines; Green Man Wines; Mitchell & Son; Bradley’s, Cork

Santa Rita Merlot 120 Reserva Especial
Central valley, Chile, 13.5%, €11.99

Mellow, rounded ripe plum fruits with a dusting of spice. With or without food.
Stockists: widely available including SuperValu, Centra, Tesco, Dunnes Stores.

Atalon Merlot 2011
Pauline’s Cuvée, Napa Valley, 14.5%, €27.45

Ripe, voluptuous dark fruits with roasted coffee and black olives. A big warm hug of a wine.
Stockists: O’Briens

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Two of the best from Bordeaux

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First published in The Irish Times, September 9th, 2017

Two Bordelaises visited Dublin recently, and each provided welcome proof that it is still possible to find very good traditional Bordeaux. Many in the region have become obsessed with making ever bigger and more powerful wines. But for me true Bordeaux is graceful and elegant, refreshing and balanced – the polar opposite of full bodied. Good claret should invite you to take another sip, and slowly seduce as it reveals hidden depths. Bordeaux is not a wine to drink on its own. It needs food to show off its finest attributes. Traditionally, it is accompanied by a roast of lamb or beef, although roast chicken, duck or a steak are fine too. If you want to keep things simple a hunk of decent Parmesan also works well.

Château Phélan Ségur

Château Phélan Ségur has been popular in Ireland for many years. The Irish connection – the Phelan family – died out in 1917. The property has always outperformed its status as a Cru Bourgeois, producing classic Saint-Estèphe: meaty, four-square wines that repay ageing.

I tasted a series of vintages going back to 1990 with the chateau’s managing director, Véronique Dausse, in Dublin. All were in fine fettle. The 2008 and 2006 were fully mature, with tobacco leaf, cool, elegant blackcurrant fruits and firm, drying tannins. The 2009 was riper, the 2010 firm and unyielding. I would give it a few more years. All were classic Bordeaux. Château Phélan Ségur costs anything from €70 to €100 a bottle; the estate’s second wine, Frank Phélan, available in independents, can offer good value at €35-€40.

Château le Puy

Emeline Arbeau works for Château le Puy, a unique property located just beside the vineyards of Pomerol and Saint-Émilion. The 100-hectare estate has 46 under vine; the rest is forest and lake. It has been in the hands of the Amoreau family since 1656, and has always been organic, if not biodynamic, although they are only now in the process of being certified. Uniquely, the chateau releases the wine only when it considers it ready to drink. It has a remarkable collection of older vintages stretching back to 1917. A selection of these is released each year.

The wines are wonderful: stimulating, refreshing and elegant, the epitome of traditional Bordeaux, with toothsome brambly red fruits and blackcurrants, developing mushrooms with age – “Bordeaux as it used to taste,” says Emeline, and I can only agree.

The wines of Château le Puy are not cheap: the Emilien is €40 and Barthélemy, the top cuvee, about €120. If this seems expensive, remember that wine from neighbouring properties are about the same price but don’t always deliver the same quality.

Bottles of the Week

Château le Puy Emilien 2014, Côtes de Bordeaux 13%, €40
Restrained blackcurrants and blackberries with a fine acidity and an elegant, lightly tannic finish. From Green Man Wines, Dublin 6; Redmonds of Ranelagh, Dublin 6; the Corkscrew, Dublin 2; Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4; Clontarf Wines, Dublin 3; Blackrock Cellar, Co Dublin

Frank Phélan 2012, Saint-Estèphe 13%, €34.95
Light, earthy tobacco and black fruits with a soft finish. Ready now. From branches of O’Briens, in Dublin, Carlow, Cork, Galway, Kildare, Limerick, Louth, Meath, Waterford, Westmeath and Wicklow; and other independents

Château Phélan Ségur 2009, Cru Bourgeois, Saint-Estèphe 13.5%, €95
Relatively full-bodied, with ripe blackcurrants and spice, and a long, dry finish. From O’Briens (as above) and other independents

This week’s bargain

Château Cilorn 2015, Bordeaux Supérieur 13.5%, €14.95, down from €19.95
Elegant cherry fruits underpinned by a fine acidity and light tannins on the finish. From O’Briens (as above)

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Pretty in pink – rosé is having a moment

At one time rosé from Provence was universally written off as over-priced and poorly made; fine for gullible tourists but never to be exported. But no longer. Provence rosé is having a bit of a moment and not just during the summer months either. Over the last few years, it has become the most fashionable tipple of the wealthy yachty classes. Consumers in France, the US and elsewhere are happy to pay increasingly large sums for Provençal Rosé.

The man who can take most credit is former Bordelais Château owner Sacha Lichine, whose Ch d’Eslcans is cleverly marketed under the name Whispering Angel. It gained the nickname Hampton’s Water, so popular is it in New York and other parts of the US. Lichine now sells various cuvées of his rosé, rising to Garrus, an oak-aged version, for a whopping €98, while the “entry-level” Whispering Angel is €30-€35 (Independents). His competition is Clos Mireille from Domaine Ott (about €35), owned by Champagne house Louis Roederer, still a favourite among many connoisseurs.

Bottle shape

Then Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt bought Ch Miraval in Provence, a property that included a 30-hectare vineyard. I am not sure who will retain ownership in the break-up. The wine is made by the Perrin family (better known as owners of many wines from the Rhône). It has featured here before as it is very good. You will find it in Terroirs in Donnybrook and Marks & Spencer for about €30. Terroirs have magnums available too.

Bottle shape is all important in the rosé market; more ambitious producers have replaced the traditional skittle bottle (see the Houchard rosé ) with their own – sometimes spectacular – designs. Size is important too – large-format bottles, magnum or double magnum, are essential in fashionable Mediterranean resorts.

Provence rosé is generally fresh, light, crisp and dry. It can sometimes be a little too austere, but the best have very attractive elegant strawberry fruits and some real complexity.

Fish and meat

Dry rosé of any kind is a great summer food wine, with grilled fish and white meats, and richer salads too. In addition to the wines featured, Marks & Spencer and Aldi both stock very decent inexpensive Provence rosé.

Just about every wine region has tried to hop on the rosé bandwagon, with varying degrees of success. Neighbouring Languedoc has similar grape varieties and climate, if not quite the same cachet, and the wines can offer great value. The Loire valley produces a variety, including some delicious delicate dry wines, and New Zealand and other regions have turned Pinot Noir into wonderfully fragrant light rosés. We will return to these shortly. O’Briens stocks no fewer than 16 rosés, including Mateus Rosé, many of them on a summer-long buy one, get one half-price promotion.

FOUR ROSÉS TO TRY

imageBendel Cuvée Caroline 2016, Côtes de Provence 13%. €10

Pleasant textured, crushed black cherries and green apples. On offer at €10 until August 2nd. Stockists: SuperValu

Domaine d’Eole 2016, Coteaux d’Aix en Provence (organic) 13%. €19.95

A delicious fresh summery wine with rounded ripe strawberry fruits. Stockists: Whelehan’s, Loughlinstown.

image-6Mirabeau 2016 Côtes de Provence .5%, €16.95

Lovely lively elegant raspberry and strawberry fruits. Summer in a glass. Buy one and second bottle is half price. Stockists: O’Briens

image-5Domaine Houchard Rosé 2016, Côtes de Provence 13%, €16.95

Rich, textured and moreish with ripe summer fruits. Stockists: Gibney’s; The Wine House, Trim; Grapevine, Dalkey; Karwig Wines; 1601, Kinsale; Morton’s, Ranelagh; Donnybrook Fair; and Cinnamon Cottage.

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Selbach Riesling 2014, Mosel

Selbach Riesling 2014, Mosel

10WGER002-Selbach-Riesling-InclineSelbach Riesling 2014, Mosel

11.5%

€13.95 for March 2017

Fresh crisp green apple fruits, with a zesty citrus edge and a nicely rounded finish. Delicate and delectable wine.

By itself or with mildly spicy Asian fish dishes; that lemon and lime acidity works really well with many Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese dishes.

I am a big fan of Riesling and was very happy when a friend served me a glass of this before dinner recently. Low in alcohol and refreshing with a touch of sweetness (as with many white wines these days) it is the perfect aperitif wine.

Available from O’Briens

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Christmas – The Big Feast

First published in the Irish Times, Saturday 10th December, 2016

 I covered Christmas dinner in the Irish Times Winter Food and Drink magazine in November. But for those who may have lost their copy, to reiterate, I would suggest a Pinot Noir, Syrah (from the Northern Rhône) or Shiraz, or Grenache to go with turkey. From Spain, a Rioja Reserva will do nicely, although I would be tempted to try a lighter red from Bierzo. I know many of you will ignore me completely, but a tannic Bordeaux is not the ideal partner for turkey.

Do start the day with something nice – Champagne is great if numbers and budget permit. A Chardonnay of some sort would be the traditional white option, and most work very well with a fishy starter and the turkey, too, if required. But this year, why not experiment a little with a Godello from Galicia in Spain, a Grüner Veltliner from Austria, or a Chenin Blanc from South Africa? All three offer great alternatives. A Soave or Vermentino from Italy would also do very nicely. However, I have a bottle of the Viognier, pictured on the page, stashed away for our Christmas dinner.

Roast beef is popular for post-Christmas get-togethers. A rib roast is a brilliant partner for most reds, Cabernets and Bordeaux in particular. Jus de Vine has the lovely Château d’Angludet 2012 for a very competitive €40. Alternatively, the delicious concentrated tannic Nebbiolo (below) would be fantastic. The wines of Viajra, from the same region are also worth looking out for in independents. Just don’t try them without food. Both Cabernet and Nebbiolo go very nicely with that other seasonal favourite, roast goose. If you are serving something sweet, such as red cabbage or an apple stuffing, then Pinot Noir or Rioja is a better bet. If you only drink white wine, go for a really good Riesling from Alsace or Germany, or a rich Pinot Gris.

Turkey curry is traditional in some households, and here I would go for a Pinot Gris or good Pinot Grigio, a Grüner Veltliner from Austria, or maybe a rich Garnacha from Spain. I like my turkey and stuffing sandwiches accompanied by a light refreshing Beaujolais or a Mencía from Bierzo.

A few last minute buys: Mail order company Wines Direct has two Chardonnays, the excellent Chablis Moreau 2015 (€23.15) and the delicious Maillet Macon-Villages 2014 (€23.25). Whelehan’s has the lovely rich Bierzo Godello Luna Bebride (€19.95) and O’Briens has the very keenly-priced Pouilly-Fumé Domaine de Bel Air for €16.95. I recently came across the very well-priced Fonseca Quinta do Panascal Vintage Port 2001 for €30 from SuperValu. I love the days following Christmas, when I open up random interesting bottles. This will certainly include a German Riesling Trocken and a good bottle of Amontillado Sherry, along with many others.

Image 2Pouilly-Fumé 2014 Domaine de Bel-Air

13%

€16.95

A very attractive well-priced Sauvignon with tangy green fruits and a crisp dry finish.

Stockists: O’Briens

 

 

 

 

Image 1Langhe Nebbiolo 2014, Produttori del Barbaresco

13.5%

€23.75

Delicious firm austere dark fruits; perfect with beef or goose.

Stockists: Select Carry Out; Cinnamon Cottage, Rochestown;

Terroirs, Donnybrook; JJ O’Driscolls; The Corkscrew; Karwig Eines.

 

 

 

Viognier de Rosine 2014Viognier de Rosine 2014, Domaine Ogier,

Vdp des Collines Rhodanniennes

12.5%

€33.95

 

Peaches and pineapples perfectly balanced by a cleansing acidity. Exquisite wine.

 

Stockists: Jus de Vin; La Touche; Searsons; Bottle Shop, D7; Green Man Wines.; One Pery Square.

 

 

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