Posts Tagged O’Briens

Rizzardi Costeggiola Soave 2014

<strong>Rizzardi Costeggiola Soave 2014</strong>

ImageRizzardi Costeggiola Soave 2014

Textured red apple fruits with a touch of honey. With hake, cod or salmon.

I wrote about Custoza last week; this week it’s better-known neighbour, Soave. Inexpensive Soave is often very watery to the point of tasteless. Pay a little more, and you get a lightly fruity crisp dry white. At the top end (€20+) there are brilliant wines, worth considering for a posh dinner with light shellfish dishes. The above wine is made in a richer style, which works really well.

Available from O’Briens

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Bordeaux superieur: fruitful trips to wine-producing chateaux The new Cité du Vin gives another good reason to visit the French city

IMG_3635First Published in the Irish Times Saturday 6th March, 2016

A deputation of Bordelais officials travelled to Dublin recently to present the Irish press corps with some compelling reasons to visit their city. I am not sure we need convincing. It seems Bordeaux is going to be a very busy place this summer. As every football fan will be aware, Ireland face Belgium here at Euro 2016 on June 18th.

The Stade de Bordeaux has a capacity of 42,000, so tickets will not be easy to come across. The massive Parc des Quinconces will be turned into a fan zone. If the match isn’t going well, you could always meander down to the nearby river, a Unesco Heritage site, and enjoy the wonderful scenery.

The soccer doesn’t end there. On June 21st, Croatia take on Spain and one of the quarter finals will take place here on July 2nd.

In addition to football there are plenty of wine-related activities. From June 23rd-26th, the city will host the annual Fête le Vin, a lively festival that takes place in tents and pavilions along the waterfront.

I really enjoyed the event a few years ago, a great mix of tastings, food and culture. At around the same time, the brand new Cité du Vin will open its doors. This impressive wine cultural centre and museum covers wine from around the world, and promises something for all the family, including children.

It would be shame to visit Bordeaux without paying a visit to a few of the wine producers. At one time, the châteaux of Bordeaux were reluctant to open their doors to the public, but happily this has all changed in recent years.From the offices of the CIVB (Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux) in the city centre, a string of buses leave every morning to visit various regions of Bordeaux and their châteaux. There will also be a jetty beside the Cité du Vin, where you can take boat trips to the vineyards.Given the city is going to be very busy, I strongly suggest you look at or the more general and make arrangements before travelling.

However, you don’t really need an excuse to go to Bordeaux; the city was rejuvenated under former mayor Alain Juppé and is a wonderful place to visit (although if you are travelling by car the traffic is never great). Many of the fine old buildings along the waterfront have been renovated, the old town is buzzing with activity, and has plenty of food and wine shops, restaurants and other ways to spend your money.If you tire of the city, and of wineries, take a relaxing a trip to the amazing beaches of Arcachon or the nearby oyster beds.


And so to the wines; Bordeaux continues to produce some of the world’s finest. The Grands Crus Classés may be beyond the reach of many, but this is one of the largest wine regions in France, so there will always be plenty of less expensive wines. Don’t worry if you don’t make it to Bordeaux; most retailers here have a decent selection.O’Briens starts its Bordeaux sale on March 1st; I can recommend the seductive, supple Château Sainte Marie (€14.35), and the excellent Château Marsau Arpège 2010 for €15.95, a very keen price.I also really enjoyed the Château Pey-Bonhomme Les Tours 2012 (€20) from 64wine recently. Lidl should still have some wines left from its French wine sale, including the Fiefs de Lagrange below.I would also recommend the elegant plummy Château de Francs 2011 and the ripe juicy Château Clos Fontaine 2010, both good value at €12.99. Greenacres in Wexford has one of the finest selections of Bordeaux in the country, with prices to fit every budget. Mitchell & Son welcomes back Château de Lamarque to its portfolio after a gap of a few years; it also has a mouth-watering selection of good Bordeaux.

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Porteno Malbec 2015, Bodegas Norton, Mendoza

Porteno Malbec 2015, Bodegas Norton, Mendoza

IMG_1604Porteno Malbec 2015, Bodegas Norton, Mendoza

Available from O’Briens for €10.95 for the month of February

This is a really tasty wine, relatively powerful, and rippling with layers of dark fruit. No oak and no tannins; just a big mouthful of pure supple fruit. At less than €11 for the month of February, this is a real bargain.

Argentina is famous for it’s Malbec. Fragrant, rich and powerful, the wines provide a perfect match for all of these barbequed ribs, steaks and other pieces of smoky charred protein. Cheapskate that I am, I often prefer the less oaky, less extracted mid-priced versions. There is some good inexpensive Malbec around too. The Aldi Exquisite Collection Malbec is worth checking out. It isn’t as good as the Porteño though. This is made by Norton, one of my favourite producers in Argentina.

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Monte Real Rioja 2013

DSCF6395We love Rioja in this country; posh Rioja Reserva sells like hot cakes in restaurants, wine shops and supermarkets. This must be aged for three years before release, and has spent a minimum of twelve months and usually more, in oak barrels. The idea is the wine comes ready to drink. A good Reserva will be rich and smooth with subtle sweet vanilla flavours, but you need to start off the ageing process with good wine. Cheap Reserva is frequently watery and smells of cheap wood. This Monte Real Rioja ignores the traditional Rioja categories and simply calls itself Rioja. It is lightly oaked, but the snappy dark cherry fruit is to the fore, and finishes with some light tannins. A great everyday wine to enjoy with chicken or red meats. €10 from O’Briens.

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Last Minute Buys

First published in The Irish Times, 24th December, 2015

Haven’t got around to buying your Christmas wine yet? Below is a roundup of what is available, including some inexpensive wines that will keep the hordes happy. Also, a few more expensive wines for the man or woman who has everything.From O’Briens, the 1757 (€49.99), a Bordeaux blended by O’Briens wine buyer Lynne Coyle, is an excellent young, structured wine. Ideally, the recipient would decant it an hour before serving, or stash it away for a few years.At a more affordable level, I was very impressed by the latest vintage of Jaspi Negre, great value at €14.99. I have also written before about the excellent Begude Chardonnay Terroir 11300 (€17.99) – perfect for Christmas starters and turkey too.Moving down in price, an old favourite, the Rioja-ish Protocolo is back down at €9.99, where it competes with the delicious rounded Porta 6 at the same price. The sweetly fruity Côtes du Rhóne (€5.99 from Lidl) won’t set the world on fire, but it might keep a crowd content.I have written before about their very drinkable, soft, fruity Cepa Lebrel Rioja (€6.99) and the oakier Reserva from the same house at €8.99.

Lidl also has two keenly-priced Bordeaux. I enjoyed the leafy elegant Fiefs de Lagrange St Julien for €24.99 and the meaty, robust Prieur de Meyney St Estèphe (€19.99).Aldi have two nice sparkling wines, the Cremant de Jura for €10.79 and an impressive Champagne, the Monsigny Blanc de Blancs 2010 for €26.99. I was also taken with their Lot 07 Bush Vine Chenin Blanc (€13.99) and the Lot 10 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon (€13.99).

If you need fizz, Tesco have their Finest Prosecco, made by Bisol, one of the top producers, for €15. From South Africa, they have a pair of very decent wines made by the Adi Badenhorst for €12. Both the Chenin Blanc and the Shiraz would do nicely for Christmas.I preferred Tesco’s Finest Rioja Crianza (€12) to the two more expensive Rioja Reservas. If you are having a large crowd, Tesco’s Finest Old Vine Garnacha (€9) is pleasant, juicy and warming. For a statement gift, Tesco’s Finest Barolo at €20 represents very good value.

To start your meal off, Dunnes Stores offer the Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc for €11 or the attractive Paco & Lola Albariño for €13. If you prefer lighter red wines, the Puy de Dome Le Pinot Noir (€13) offers light, juicy fruits at a bargain price, or the Domaine de Sainte-Marthe Syrah is a little richer, but equally good value at €10.50.I would consider the Cune Reserva 2011 (see below), or the excellent, structured, and well-priced Muga reserva for €19.50. If possible, decant the latter an hour before serving with turkey.If you need to buy a statement present, the Château Haut-Batailley 2005 (Dunnes, €55) is an excellent claret.

Moving on to SuperValu, you could start the Christmas dinner with either the easy-drinking and rounded Alchimie Coteaux du Giennois (€10) or for something a little unusual a Pinot Gris from Oregon; the Kings Ridge Pinot Gris (€15) has lovely melon and peach fruits with hints of honey.For an inexpensive Bordeaux, I would go for the light, rounded Château Camp de la Hire (€12), or if you want to splurge, the very tasty Charles Mignon Grand Cru Champagne for €45.

Marks & Spencer offers the delicious maturing Graham Beck Blanc de Blancs 2010 sparkling (€18.99). For something a little offbeat the Croatian Golden Valley Grasevina (€14.79) is excellent, and for a red wine, the fresh juicy Dolcetto d’Asti (€10.99) with its dark fruits is delicious.I am sure there will be last-minute bargains from all the major stores, but sadly they keep this a secret from wine writers until the last minute.

Image 5Jaspi Negre 2012, Monsant, Spain, 14.5%, €14.99
Sumptuous dark fruits with a fine minerality. An affordable present for the wine geek in your life.
Stockist: O’Briens

DSCF6246CUNE Rioja Reserva 2011 13.5%, €16
Delicious elegant Rioja with ripe dark cherry fruits, a smidgen of oak and a lovely finish. Christmas dinner sorted.
Stockists: Dunnes Stores

DSCF6258Charles Mignon Cuvée Comte de Marne Grand Cru NV, 12%, €45
An excellent Champagne with lightly floral aromas and creamy apple and brioche, finishing dry.
Stockists: SuperValu

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Muscadet: the perfect al fresco summer wine

Muscadet: the perfect al fresco summer wine

First published in The Irish Times
Sat, Jul 11, 2015, 01:00

Those of you of a certain vintage will remember Muscadet with a shudder. For a while in the 1970s and 1980s, this was the favourite tipple of the wine drinking classes. No drinks party was complete without it, and it featured on every wine list in the country. To meet demand, the vineyard area expanded dramatically and the larger companies started making vast quantities of very cheap wine.Most was pretty dire and a some of it probably didn’t even come from the Muscadet region. We moved on to the New World, and poor Muscadet hasn’t really gotten a look in since. Which is a pity as the region has long ago reformed itself (the good producers never went away), and now offers the intelligent buyer a selection of light wines, beautifully made and complex, with a character all of their own.There are few finer things in life than a large plateful of spanking fresh plain seafood washed down with generous quantities of Muscadet. As with Beaujolais, it is the perfect al fresco summer wine, one that seems made to drink outdoors at lunchtime.

Muscadet is the wine; the grape variety is Melon de Bourgogne, a distant relative of Chardonnay. The vast majority of the vines, some 20,000 acres, are grown in the Sèvre-et-Maine region and most bottles will bear this name on the label.In recent years, two other smaller sub-regions to the north have been created, Coteaux de la Loire and Côtes de Grandlieu. Muscadet-Côtes de Grandlieu tends to be riper and fruitier; Muscadet Coteaux de la Loire is lighter and more linear.Muscadet sometimes suffers a little due to its reputation as a crisp light white to go with seafood; although it will never be a big wine, that does not mean it is simple. The best have a wonderful subtle complexity. At a wine fair a decade ago, I worked my way around half-a-dozen small domaines, tasting some superb wines, including some excellent 10 year-old Muscadet.However, I would not recommend ageing your bottles; to me this is a wine best enjoyed in the first few years of its life, when the elegant plump fruits are to the fore. I am happy to say that a few intrepid outlets are now importing some of the top estates – Terroirs in Donnybrook in Dublin has the biodynamic Domaine de l’Ecu, and Le Caveau in Kilkenny has Château du Coing. Whelehans in Loughlinstown in Dublin imports the excellent Luneau-Papin, The Wine Store has Domaine Huchet and Wines Direct offers the wonderful Domaine de la Louvetrie. Most sell at €15-€20, very good value for quality wines. These days, most of the multiples offer decent inexpensive Muscadet. “Sur Lie”, which appears on most bottles, refers to the practice of leaving the wines on their lees, or dead yeast cells, for a period after fermentation. Bottled without filtration, the wines have a slight prickle and a soft creamy texture. Producers in many wine regions, including Burgundy and Rías Baixas, age white wines on their lees for 12 to 24 months to add flavour and complexity. It is traditional in Muscadet.

I am the proud owner of a Muscadet vineyard. A few years ago at a wine fair in the Loire, a producer presented me with a wax-covered stick and a small sack. The bag contained salt, Sel de Guérande, and the stick was a Melon de Bourgogne vine. These I was told, were Brittany’s greatest products. I enjoyed the salt and stuck the vine into the only vaguely sunny spot in the garden. Last year, it produced three bunches of very green acidic grapes. I don’t think the vignerons of Muscadet have much to fear from the vineyards of Wicklow.

DSCF5570Muscadet de Sèvre & Maine sur lie, Domaine de la Chauvinière 2013

Lovely light refreshing dry wine with delicate ripe plump apple fruits. Perfect with all manner of fishy things. Try it with oysters for a real treat.

Stockists: O’Briens; James Nicholson , Crossgar.

ImageMuscadet de Sèvre & Maine sur lie, Clos des Montys 2014

Jeremie Huchet makes the Chauviniére above and this delicious wine too; clean, subtle almost snow-like with a lovely long finish and a subtle spritz.

Stockists: Jus de Vine; McCabes; Redmonds; One Pery Sq. Limerick.

DSCF5496Muscadet de Sèvre & Maine sur lie, Les Pierres Blanches, Domaine Luneau-Papin

Delicate refined and crisp with the finest of floral, lemon-scented pristine fruit.
Exquisite wine.

Stockists: Whelehan Wines, Loughlinstown

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Porta 6 2011 Lisboa

Porta 6 2011 Lisboa


€13.99 down to €9.99


Light smooth ripe plum and blackberry fruits in far greater concentration than you would expect in a wine at under €10. Very gluggable wine to drink with red and white meats.

The natty label features the historic tram that runs around the streets of Portugal’s capital city. António Mendes Lopes of Vidigal had bought the picture, but had great trouble tracking down the artist to get his permission to use it on a label – it turned out to be a slightly eccentric German artist by the name of Hauke Vagt, who sold his works to tourists during the summer months.


Available from O’Briens

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Muscadet de Sèvre & Maine sur lie, Domaine de la Chauvinière 2013

Muscadet  de Sèvre & Maine sur lie, Domaine de la Chauvinière 2013



Available from O’Briens

Lovely light refreshing dry wine with delicate ripe plump apple fruits. Perfect with all manner of fishy things. I had mine with prawns and dill with pasta.

Muscadet appears to be coming back into fashion again. Gone are the cheap incredibly acidic fruitless wines – although you can still find a few in the supermarkets. There have always been plenty of really good estates producing really good complex elegant wines; over the last few months I have tasted several amazingly good wines, some of which will feature in a forthcoming Irish Times article. In the meantime enjoy this delicious well-priced summery wine from O’Briens.


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