Posts Tagged Ribera del Duero

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.

Posted in: Irish Times

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My Top Ten Red Wines under €20 for 2016

This post came about as a result of a challenge set by a Twitter follower; to name my top five red wines for under €20. I have expanded it out here to ten wines. All have appeared in the Irish Times or on my blog before, and many in Wilson on Wine 2017, but I thought it might be good to see them all together. Doubtless they will change soon. In the meantime I have bought myself six bottles each of the Dâo, Geil Pinot, and Roka for drinking over the next few months.



DSCF7103Albizu Tempranilllo 2015, VdT de Castilla, Spain


I have a weakness for unoaked (or very lightly oaked) Rioja. I love the lively aroma, the pure cherry fruits and the refreshing acidity. Here they come together in 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. Worth buying in quantity for the season ahead.


€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.



Sa de Baixo 2014Sa de Baixo 2014, Douro, Portugal       


This has been one of my go-to wines for a few years now, and I know I am not alone; many of our independent wine shops do a brisk trade with it. The label has changed recently, but the wine is just as good . Succulent ripe red fruits with a smooth tannin-free finish. Light harmonious and very quaffable. A good all-rounder to drink by itself or with white meats – creamy chicken with pasta sounds good.


€13.50 from Mortons, Ranelagh; McHughs; Blackrock Cellar; Gibneys, Malahide; Avoca Rathcoole; Wicklow Wine Co.; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Baggot St Wines; DrinkStore, D7; Martins, Fairview; Browns Vineyard, Portlaoise; Red Island, Skerries; Probus, Fenian St; Sweeneys, Glasnevin; 64 Wine, Glasthule.



DSCF6516Borsao Garnacha Seleccíon, Campo de Borja, 2015, Spain


The label is fairly dazzling, and so is the wine. The Campo de Borja region produces large quantities of big ripe warming red wines, usually made from Garnacha. This is a warm hug of a wine. 14.5% alcohol, it is big, rounded and ripe with soft spicy strawberry fruits and a very decent supple finish. Fantastic value for money. Perfect for barbecues and other red meats.



€13.95 from Bradleys, Cork; 64 Wine, Glasthule; Next Door, Arklow; & Searsons Monkstown; Drinkstore, D7.



DSCF7060Acón Joven 2014, Ribera del Duero, Spain


A world away from the big tannic oaky monsters that once made up most of Ribera del Duero. This unoaked ‘young’ wine has forward floral aromas and delicious pure damson fruits. It packs a fair punch too, coming in at 14.5%, but you would hardly know it. Great value for money and perfect with roast lamb and beef.


€14.50 Red Island Wines; 64 Wine; Wicklow Wine Co; Clontarf Wines; Listons, Camden St.




Domaine des NuguesDomaine des Nugues, Beaujolais Villages 2014, France    


Beaujolais is finally coming back into fashion as we seek wines that are lighter in style. I spent a few lovely days in the region earlier this year, tasting the various crus. I also visited this estate. This wine is one of the best, and certainly superior to many of the cheap Fleurie you will come across in the shops. Wonderful aromas and pure sweet red cherry and blackcurrant fruits with a touch of liquorice. Patés, cheese and all things porcine, including belly of pork, ham and boiled bacon, as well as roast chicken.


€16.75 from Martin’s, Fairview; 64 Wine, Glasthule.




Roka BlaufränkischRoka Blaufränkisch 2015, Stajerska, Slovenia


Made by Irish couple Sinéad & Liam Cabot from their own grapes, both this and their equally delicious white Šipon are really good wines, and quite amazing for a first real effort after a few limited releases. The Blaufränkisch is a true vin de soif, with fresh supple cherry and damson fruits, but that really does it a disservice; this is a wine with plenty of depth and concentration. Well worth seeking out.


€16.99 from Cabot & Co;, Westport; No.1 Pery Square, Limerick; Grapevine, Dalkey; The Poppyseed, Clarinbridge; McCambridges, Galway.




DSCF6122Dâo Rótulo 2015, Niepoort, Portugal


If your tastes run to rich full-bodied reds, stay away from this wine. It is a delicious refreshing light red with a savoury edge to the clean damson fruits. Moreish, and with a mere 12.5% alcohol, you don’t have to deny yourself.


€16.99 from Redmonds, Mortons, Martins,Jus de vine, Green Man, Donnybrook Fair, Clontarf Wines, Blackrock Cellar and Baggot Street Wines




DSCF7121Geil Pinot Noir 2015, Rheinhessen


Charming free-flowing light supple sweet cherry fruits with a nice kick of acidity. Try it with salmon, tuna or pork. I have tried this several times in wine bars recently, including La Touche and Grapevine in Dalkey. It seems to suit all tastes, and is light enough be drunk without food.


€16.95-17.95 from La Touche; Grapevine; Mortons; Sweeneys; Redmonds; Wicklow Wine Co; Mitchell & Son; Listons; Jus de Vine; Drinkstore; Corkscrew; Blackrock Cellar; 64Wine.




DSCF5905Ch. Pey-Bonhomme Les-Tours 2012, Blaye – Côtes de Bordeaux, France

This was a really enjoyable wine, classic Bordeaux, with clean blackcurrant fruits, a seam of acidity running through, and a light dry tannic bite on the finish. I had mine with a roast shoulder of pork (Tamworth, from, excellent) and it was very good. I suspect it would be even better with lamb. Affordable well-made Bordeaux.

€19 from Green Man Wines, Terenure; 64Wine, Glasthule; Fallon & Byrne, Exchequer Street; Clontarf Wines; Mortons, Ranelagh.






Quite 2014 BierzoQuite 2014 Bierzo, Veronica Ortega


Medium-bodied and perfumed with fresh clean dark fruits; delicious, but if I was feeling flush I would go for Ortega’s Roc (at €30). I have been on a big Mencía kick for the last few years. I still love the Castro Valtuillé Joven, and the Brezo de Grégory Pérez, both widely available from independents, but I have really enjoyed this several times at home over the last eight months.


€19.50 from 64wine, Glasthule; World Wide Wines, Waterford; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Blackrock Cellars; Clontarf Wines; Drinkstore, D7;


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Finca Resalso 2014, Ribera del Duero, Emilio Moro

<strong>Finca Resalso 2014, Ribera del Duero, Emilio Moro</strong>

Image 1Finca Resalso 2014, Ribera del Duero, Emilio Moro

Tasted more like 14% or even more to me, but a very good polished wine with smooth dark fruits, very subtle oak, a bit of real power and good length too. Nice wine. Went very well with our Armenian chicken, stuffed with walnuts, prunes and sumac.

Available from Redmonds, Ranelagh; Deveneys, Dundrum; The Coachhouse, Balinteer; Higgins, Clonskeagh; Sweeneys, Glasnevin; Clontarf Wines; O’Driscoll’s, Cahirsiveen; Donnybrook Fair; Holland’s, Bray; Fresh, Canal St.; No.21, Cork; 1601, Kinsale; Joyce’s, Galway.

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Spiga 2009, Ribera del Duero, Bodegas y Viñedos O. Fournier

Spiga 2009, Ribera del Duero, Bodegas y Viñedos O. Fournier


Full-bodied with intense ultra-smooth dark fruits and plenty of structure. There are some dry tannins on the lengthy finish. A very impressive wine to partner with robust lamb dishes.

O. Fournier is a unique company. Founded by José Manuel Fournier in 2000, it has wineries in Spain (Ribera del Duero), Chile (Maule & San Antonio) and Argentina (Uco Valley). All produce very high-quality wines. They have a different winemaker for each country, with one overseeing the entire operation. There is a distinct house style – I would say smooth and concentrated with clean ripe fruits. Well-made, very seductive wines.

Available from Quintessential Wines, Drogheda,

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