Posts Tagged Whelehan’s

Forget dry January, I prefer ‘damp January’

First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 20th January, 2018

This year I have opted for a damp January, strictly avoiding all alcohol for the first three days of the week, and drinking less than usual for the remaining four. To reward myself, I have been drinking better wine. Instead of drinking two €10 bottles of wine, I have traded up to €15-€20 – and more – on a few occasions. As a result, over the last few weekends, I have enjoyed some really special wines. This is a case when really less is more. And of course, as I am drinking less, my wine budget remains the same.

If you feel €20 is too much to pay for a bottle of wine, just remember that it is much cheaper, and so much better, than the barely drinkable insipid house wines offered by most restaurants, wine bars and hotels. I would argue that all four wines below offer great value for money. So get some decent wine glasses, fill them to only a quarter or a third full (you should get eight glasses per bottle), and enjoy the pleasures of a really good wine.

The Sauvignon Blanc below is a completely different animal to the standard Marlborough version, with a style and character all of its own. From one of the leading exponents of natural wine, this is a wine worth seeking out. The importer tells me that the 2016 vintage is now being rationed, so don’t delay.

The Crozes Hermitage I have chosen is from the Caves de Tain, a large co-operative that dominates production in the region. All of the wines are very reliable and sometimes much more, as is the case with this wine. From the excellent 2015 vintage, it had a lovely lightness and purity of fruit that had all my alarm bells ringing – for the right reasons. Exceptional value for money if you enjoy lighter, lower alcohol wines.

Those that prefer a bit more body in their wine should look to one of the other two red wines below. There are plenty of inexpensive Côtes du Rhônes available, but this is one area where paying a few euros more really does pay dividends. I have featured others before Christmas, but this Château Beauchene (from a Châteauneuf-du-Pape producer) offers a very seductive mix of elegance and warmth.

Collioure is a small French village on the Mediterranean coast, not far from the Spanish border. Once best known for its anchovies and painters, these days it is a popular tourist destination. Less well known are its wines; both red and white, can be very good, but I haven’t come across them in Ireland for a few years. This is a rich swarthy powerful wine, perfect for banishing those wintery blues.

Le P’tit Blanc de Tue-Bouef 2015, Clos du Tue-Bouef

13%, €19

Made with a minimal addition of sulphur at bottling, this is an intriguing Sauvignon with real character. Subtle and complex with lifted aromas, and soft quince and peach fruits, perfectly balanced by a mineral edge. Serve as an aperitif or with winter salads. I had mine with beetroot and goat’s cheese.

Stockists: Le Caveau Kilkenny; The Corkscrew; Green Man Wines; Bradley’s, Cork.

Crozes Hermitage, Caves de Tain 2015

13%, €19.95

Perfectly ripe blackcurrant and morello cherry fruits with a savoury refreshing note and excellent length. It went perfectly with our Sunday night roast chicken, but would provide a perfect partner for ham dishes. Excellent value for money.

Stockists: O’Briens

Château Beauchene 2016, Côtes du Rhône

13.5%, €17.95

Medium to full-bodied and smooth with soft ripe rounded red fruits dusted with spice. This went down very nicely with a curry from my new local Indian takeaway (Tiffin in Charlesland, Co Wicklow).

Stockists: Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown

Les Voiles de Paulilles 2015, Collioure

14%, €19

Gutsy full-bodied wine with concentrated blackcurrant fruits, spice and black olives. Perfect with a roast of beef or lamb, or maybe a stew laced with Mediterranean herbs.

Stockists: Marks & Spencer

Posted in: Irish Times

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Ch. Janoy Bellevue 2014, Bordeaux

<strong>Ch. Janoy Bellevue 2014, Bordeaux</strong>

Image 2Ch. Janoy Bellevue 2014, Bordeaux
€14.95 from Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlintstown

Very attractive modern Bordeaux with generous plum fruits and light soft tannins. With roast meats (red and white) or firm cheeses. Very good value.

I started out in the wine trade at a time when everyone drank red Bordeaux and have always retained a fondness for what I call ODC – ordinary decent claret; unpretentious, medium-bodied wine with plum and blackcurrant fruits and some drying tannins. They make for perfect everyday dinner wines. This is one such example.

Posted in: Daily Drop

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Last Weekend’s Modest Haul

Last Weekend’s Modest Haul


A quick run through of last weekend’s drinking; some very nice wines, and some great value too.

Bolo 2015, Valdeorras
€17.95 from various independents.

Delicious rich plump pear and peach fruits, good acidity – almost like a Chardonnay in style – lovely wine.

Marques de Concha Chardonnay 2014, Limarí, Chile
€15.99 Tesco & SuperValu

Very attractive rich nectarine fruits, a touch of oak/nuts, nicely balanced, well-made wine.

Tabalí Syrah 2012, Limarí Valley, Chile
14% €14.95 from Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown.

Lovely wine; dark cherries, savoury plums and black pepper, now smooth and very moreish.

Sancerre Harmonie 2006 Vincent Pinard
€39.50 from Terroirs, Donnybrook

I was given this by Francoise Gilley of Terroirs in Donnybrook with the instruction to keep it for a few years. So I did. And she was correct; lovely honeyed wine with a crisp mineral acidity, some soft peaches, and lovely length.

Früburgunder Trocken Edition PW 2012, Rheingau, Georg Müller
€27.70 from Karwig Wines, Carrigaline

Very attractive moreish wine with delicate piquant fresh red cherry fruits, some smooth tannins, a little oak and a very decent finish. I reckon it would go very nicely with duck.

Ch. Janoy Bellevue 2014, Bordeaux
€14.95 from Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown

Very attractive modern Bordeaux with generous plum fruits and light soft tannins. Very good value too.

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Pinot Noir La Roncière 2014, André Vatan, Vin de Loire

<strong>Pinot Noir La Roncière 2014, André Vatan, Vin de Loire</strong>

ImagePinot Noir La Roncière 2014, André Vatan, Vin de Loire
€14.95 from Whelehan’s, Loughlinstown.

Light refreshing red fruits with an earthy edge. Serve cool with all sorts of summer salads, cold meats and chicken dishes.

For a long time, Sancerre was one of the few parts of France other than Burgundy attempting to make red wine from Pinot Noir. Red Sancerre has got a whole lot better, but is always quite pricey. This wine, made by one of the leading producers of Sancerre (white and red) is very moreish and offers pretty good value for money.

Posted in: Daily Drop

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Kaapzicht Chenin Blanc 2015, Stellenbosch, South Africa

Kaapzicht Chenin Blanc 2015, Stellenbosch, South Africa

Image 1Kaapzicht Chenin Blanc 2015, Stellenbosch, South Africa

Available from Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown

A big smiling mouthful of wine, refreshing and attractively fruity with a snappy dry finish. Perfect to sip on its own or with lighter fish and chicken dishes. Very good value for money too.

Chenin Blanc is the greatest chameleon grape of them all, happy to be made into sparkling sweet or dry white wine. In its home territory of the Loire Valley, you will find it in every style and in all its wonderful glory. But today we are in South Africa the only New World country to have significant quantities of Chenin Blanc. At one stage it made up a third of all vines planted. Familiarity seemed to have bred contempt, as for many years South African winemakers seemed completely uninterested in Chenin. This has changed over the last decade; you can now find some seriously good examples. You may come across the odd sweet wine but the vast majority are dry, ranging from light and crisp to rich and textured. Today’s wine could not be described as serious. It light and fruity, but I enjoyed the quality of the fruit; none of those confected fruit popsicle flavours you get from so many inexpensive white wines.

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Image 29Bodegas Fabre Montmayour Reservado Chardonnay 2014, Mendoza, Argentina
€14.95 from Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown

I was bemoaning the lack of big rich buttery Chardonnays in my piece in the Irish Times last week, when this wine appeared. David Whelehan promised an old-style ‘Dolly Parton’ Chardonnay. He was half-right; it is a powerful full-bodied wine with lots of tropical fruits, some oak and a touch of butter too. But it is actually more than that; this is a well-made wine, with good acidity and balance. The oak is there but doesn’t overwhelm and the quality of the fruit is pretty good. I can see it going very nicely with chicken and richer fish dishes.

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