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The best wines to drink with salads

STYRIAFirst published in The Irish Times, Saturday 7th July, 2018

As the good weather continues, this week we will look at wines to drink with summer salads. I may have been guilty of blithely suggesting to match a particular wine with salads in general. But what kind of salad? There is a huge difference between a delicate herb-scented dish of courgettes and fennel, and a plate of full-on chili-spiked Mexican beans. And what if you are serving a barbequed steak, lamb skewers or sweet chili chicken drumsticks alongside your salad?

As with most food and wine matching, it makes sense to serve light-bodied wines with delicately flavoured foods and richer wines with more powerful recipes. Sharp acidic salads go best with crisp refreshing white wines. Many books suggest only white wines, but if I often drink a Beaujolais or another light red with whatever is going.

Vinegar is wine that has gone sour, so a dressing made with vinegar doesn’t do any favours to wine. I generally add lemon juice to my vinaigrette instead. The wine of a region often provides a great match for local foods. Provence Rosé with a classic Salade Niçoise works really well, as does Beaujolais with ham and other charcuterie or an Assyrtiko with Greek salad.

Chardonnay

Salmon, with its rich, oily, meaty texture and flavour, needs something more substantial. With salmon tartar, smoked salmon or cold poached salmon with cucumber and salads, I would usually go for a Chardonnay. The de Martino below would be perfect, as would the Begude Chardonnays in O’Briens (€16.95-18.95), a Chablis or the Aldi Limestone Coast Chardonnay (€8.49).

Or why not experiment a little with a Godello from Spain, or a nicely textured Grüner Veltliner from Austria – Grüner being one of the all-time great food wines. If you are barbequing or grilling your salmon, then a rosé or Pinot Noir might be a better bet. Marks & Spencer have the fragrant juicy Albert Bichot Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune 2015 for a very reasonable €19.50, or the Couveys below offers good value. All of the above would go nicely with cold chicken-based dishes too, including Caesar salad.

Italian whites

With salads featuring prawns, scallops and crab, go for crisp aromatic whites such as Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling or Albariño. Riesling (and Grüner Veltliner) also goes well with Thai beef salads. Sauvignon Blanc partners nicely with milder goat’s cheese salads. Tomato and red pepper based salads are generally best with crisp whites. I tend to go for Italian whites, such as Soave or Verdicchio.

I suspect that at outdoor get-togethers, most of us probably serve a mix of different salads instead of a single dish. My go-to wines to cover all bases would include a dry Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, Sauvignon Blanc, or an unoaked Chardonnay, but possibly best of all would be a medium-bodied rosé. It is summer after all.

Bottles of the Week

Couveys Pinot Noir Les Petits Greniers 2016, Pays d’Oc 13%, €10.99

Ripe smooth red cherry fruits with an earthy touch and a rounded finish. Good with barbequed salmon or chicken, and mixed salads.
Stockists Spar, Eurospar, Londis & Mace.

Grüner Veltliner Löss 201, Kamptal, Rabl 12%, €14.95 until 15th July (normally €18.95)

A light refreshing Grüner, with lovely elegant peach fruits and a touch of ginger spice. Great with cold seafood dishes, Thai food and summer salads.
Stockists O’Briens. Obrienswine.ie

Legado Chardonnay Reserva 2017, de Martino, Limarí Valley 13.5%,€7

An impressive medium-bodied Chardonnay, with very refreshing clean pear and apple fruits, a vein of crisp acidity and a long dry finish. With salmon, tuna and Cesar Salad.
Stockists The Malt House, Trim; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, jusdevine.ie; Martin’s Off Licence, Clontarf, martinsofflicence.ie; Molloy’s Liquor Store, molloys.ie; Wineonline.ie

Ch. l’Ou Rosé, 2017, Côtes du Roussillon 13.5%, €20

Medium-bodied with lovely strawberry and raspberry fruits, finishing dry. A great all-rounder to serve with a range of summer salads.
Stockists Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown.

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Chill out: Why you should be drinking red wine from the fridge

Are cool reds finally catching on? Wine manager Ian Brosnan recently launched the Ely summer wine list, featuring a Cool Red page for the first time, offering customers the option of drinking these wines lightly chilled, or at room temperature. Drinking low temperature reds makes sense in hot weather but it isn’t just about the sun. We eat more salads, cold meats and seafood in the summer months, and all of these go so much better with a lightly chilled red wine. We tend to drink red wine a little too warm throughout the year (and white wine too cold). The oft-quoted “room temperature” refers to a Victorian room without any central heating, probably about 16-18 degrees. Lighter summery red wines are probably best at 10-15 degrees. An ice bucket is not necessary; an hour in the fridge is about right, remembering that your wine will warm up quickly once poured.

Regular readers will know that I am a huge fan of Beaujolais, a region that has re-emerged in recent years. Beaujolais is the perfect summer wine. Most of the supermarkets seem to have to added a few to their selection, but for real excitement, ask your local off-licence or wine shop for single-estate wines. There are some thrilling wines. My own favourite is Domaine Vissoux (Terroirs, Donnybrook) but there are plenty more around. The best Beaujolais is light and fruity with no drying tannins on the finish. They make brilliant all-purpose food wines, with salmon or tuna, as well as chicken, pork and all sorts of charcuterie and cheese.

The other great summer red is Loire Valley Cabernet Franc; they tend to be a bit more savoury, sometimes with peppery dry tannins, making them brilliant wines to drink with food, but occasionally a little austere on their own. This may explain why they aren’t more popular; given the increasing demand for light, low-alcohol wines, you would expect to find them everywhere, but few of the multiples seem to stock them. Marks & Spencer does have the excellent Plessis-Duval Saumur-Champigny (€15) and O’Briens the soft ripe Saint Nicolas de Bourgeuil (€16.95). Otherwise, check out your local wine shop.

As part of their French wine sale, Lidl has a number of summery wines, including the lightly fruity Beaujolais Domaine de la Presse Fleurie (€10.99) and a very gluggable Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2017 (€9.99). I almost preferred the less expensive, very attractive, juicy Beaujolais 2016 (€13) from Marks & Spencer to its Fleurie (€17), but I would be happy to drink either. Elsewhere, Aldi has an attractive, easy-drinking Beaujolais 2016 for an amazing €7.99, perfect for large summer gatherings.

Beaujolais ‘Les Bécots’ 2017, Thorin

13%, €11.99

Light rounded blackcurrant fruits with a smooth finish. An attractive multi-purpose wine to match with white meats, charcuterie and salmon. Summer parties on the patio.
Stockists: Mace, Spar, Eurospar, Londis

The Flower and the Bee 2016, Ribeiro

13%, €19-€20

From Spain, a very attractive light juicy wine with crisp raspberry and red cherry fruits. Good acidity and very refreshing; this would go nicely with grilled salmon, or mixed tapas.
Stockists: Green Man Wines, Terenure; Kelly’s, Clontarf; Deveney’s, Dundrum; Michael’s, Mount Merrion; Clontarf Wines; 64 Wine, Glasthule

Beaujolais Villages du Grappin 2017

13%, €24.99

Light and juicy with vibrant red cherry fruits. Some savoury refreshing tannins on the finish, making it the ideal partner for roast pork, pâtés and barbecued lamb kebabs.

Stockists: Whelehans Wines, Loughlinstown, whelehanswines.ie; 64 Wine, Glasthule, 64wine.ie; Bradley’s Off-licence, Cork, bradleysofflicence.ie; Alex Findlater, Limerick; alexfindlaterandco.ie; Green Man Wines, Terenure, greenmanwines.ie.

Le Clos des Quarterons Vieilles Vignes 2015, St Nicolas de Bourgeuil

12.5%, €27.95

One of my favourite red wines so far this year; a Loire Cabernet Franc with an irresistible combination of delicate silky yet concentrated red fruits and gently refreshing acidity. Beautifully textured with nicely integrated tannins. Enjoy with pork dishes, a herby roast chicken or a baked ham.

Stockists: Searsons, Monkstown, searsons.com

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The reds and rosés of the Loire

First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 29th July, 2017

A very happy wine trade friend recently returned from his family holiday in France. Having pitched their tent in a campsite by the river, they spent two glorious sunny weeks wandering down to the shops to stock up on local foods, which they brought home, cooked and consumed, accompanied by an array of local wines. They were fortunate to be based in the Loire valley, a beautiful region with plenty of great summer wines to offer.

 The region is home to sparkling, white, rosé, red and sweet wines. For white wines, they offer much more than Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. Not only has Muscadet revived itself and is producing excellent wines at very favourable prices, but producers seem to have made great progress in taming the Chenin Blanc. But this week, we stay with reds (and rosés), both very food-friendly summer wines that are perfect with lighter foods.

 You will find some Pinot Noir, Malbec, Gamay and a little Cabernet Sauvignon, but the great red grape of the Loire is Cabernet Franc. Long thought to be a cousin of the better-known Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, along with Sauvignon Blanc, is actually the parent of same. You will only find it in quantity in two other parts of the world; the right bank of Bordeaux and northeastern Italy. Essentially, it is a lighter, early-drinking version of Cabernet Sauvignon, although one of the greatest, most long-lived Bordeaux, Ch Cheval-Blanc is more than 50 per cent Cabernet Franc, and some of the best Cabernet Franc from Chinon and Bourgeuil also mature wonderfully. It also ripens a week or two earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon, a real advantage in the cooler Loire valley.

Leafy flavours

In poor vintages, Loire Cab Franc can be a little too green and herbaceous, although this happens far less frequently these days thanks to better viticulture and climate change. Young wines have lovely subtle aromas of and juicy soft redcurrant and blackcurrant fruits. It is generally light in alcohol, with a refreshing acidity, making it a perfect summer wine, served cool or even lightly chilled. The more serious wines repay, keeping up to 20 years, when the wines develop wonderful soft leafy flavours and aromas, sometimes with a characteristic flavours described as pencil shavings.  They are among my favourite wines. Compared to Bordeaux and other regions, they are ridiculously cheap.

As mentioned last week, the Loire also produces very good rosé wines; the best-known is Rosé d’Anjou, which tends to be off-dry. JNwine.com has a good range of well-priced Loire reds and rosés. Searsons has the tasty Chinon Clos des Godeaux (€12.95) and Quintessential (Drogheda) an excellent Saumur-Champigny Domaine des Roches Neuves (€24.50).

BARGAIN WINE

Saumur-Champigny 2015 Plessis–Duval

12.5% (€15)
A delicious light juicy wine filled with crunchy blackcurrant fruits.
Stockists: Marks & Spencer

Saumur Rosé 2016, Bouvet-Ladubet

12.5% (€16.95)
A delicious grown-up rosé with elegant redcurrant and raspberry fruits and a lip-smacking dry finish. Try with salmon.
Stockists: Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown.

Saumur-Champigny “Tuffe” 2014, Ch du Hureau, Organic

13% (€19.50/£13.96)
Classic Cabernet Franc with lovely refreshing red and blackcurrant fruits on nose and palate.
Stockists: JNwine.com.

Saumur-Champigny 2015 Ch de Villeneuve, Organic

13%(€18.00)
Perfect smooth ripe blackcurrant and cassis fruits. A charmer.
Stockists: Le Caveau; Blacrock Cellar; Clontarf Wines; Corkscrew; Green Man Wines; World Wide Wines; Bradleys.

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Pink for Summer

Pink for Summer

First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 9th July, 2016

DSCF6663

Sales of rosé wines in this country have increased a little in recent years, but still remain stubbornly low at 4-5% of sales. This is largely made up of those drinking inexpensive sweet “white” Zinfandel all year round, and by occasional bursts of general pink drinking when the sun makes an appearance in our skies.

We drink the colour as much as the wine; there is something quintessentially summery about a rosé wine, drunk well-chilled over a lunch outside in the sun. I am constantly being told that rosé is much more than that, and we should be drinking it the year round. It is one of the most adaptable of wines, perfect with all sorts of food, but somehow I cannot bring myself to drink it on a wet January evening.

Rosé comes in more styles than one. Leaving aside the aforementioned sweet Californians, elsewhere just about every country has had a go at making rosé; ranging from light and crisp to full-bodied and sometimes fairly alcoholic. Today we concentrate on French rosé.

The lightest, which would include the Bordeaux and Provence rosé below, is very similar in makeup to a crisp dry white wine; these go very well with lighter salads, including seafood, as well as more delicate pasta and rice dishes.More fruity and full-bodied rosés can go with a wide variety of foods, including grilled or barbecued chicken and pork, all of those southern French classics with anchovies, olives, garlic and herbs. They also go nicely with cold meats, pâtés and other charcuterie. I also find they are good match with slightly spicy dishes including curries.

Much has been made of Provençal rosé, usually dry and sometimes very expensive. I have yet to be convinced that any rosé is worth €30 or more. To me it is frivolous and fun, and that means less than €20. The Domaine d’Eole below does offer very good value for money. Look out too for the Mirabeau Rosé from O’Briens, at a price that works out at €12.71 if you buy two bottles. Marks & Spencer have the very tasty Coteaux Varois en Provence 2015 for €12.49. Tavel, a small town in the southern Rhône, traditionally made the most powerful, alcoholic rosés. The appellation here is exclusively for rosé wines. They have gone out of fashion, and most of the wines are lighter, although full of fruit, as with the Tavel below. Those from the Loire tend to be light and crisp.Rosé d’Anjou is usually a bit too sweet for my tastes, but Sancerre rosé, made with Pinot Noir, can be exquisite, and certainly worth the money. Alsace also produces some beautifully fragrant Pinot Noir rosé.

DSCF6640Domaine d’Eole 2015, Coteaux d’Aix en Provence
12.5%
€16.95

Very attractive exuberant strawberry fruits with a dry finish. Great with or without food.

Stockists: Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown

Image 1Tavel Rose 2014, Prieuré de Montezargues
13.5%
€18.99

The deepest colour, with concentrated red cherry fruits. With herby Provençal salads.

Stockists: Wines on the Green; Dicey Reilly; McCabes; Nectar Wines, Nolans Supermarket.

DSCF6712Bordeaux Rosé 2015, Brande Bergère.
12.5%
€19.95

The palest of colours, with sour cherry and plum fruits. Delicate, dry and moreish.

Stockists: Grapevine, Dalkey.

Image 2Famille Bougrier, Les Hauts Lieux 2015 Le Rosé, Vin de France
12%
€12.95 (2nd bottle ½ price)

Light clean refreshing summer fruits. Perfect al fresco drinking.

Stockists: O’Briens

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