I wrote last week about the need for a reduction in our excise duty on wine which is by far the highest in the EU and I don’t want to labour the point but do please mention it to your TD if you get the chance as budget day is looming.
The wine industry here employs around 1,100 people directly and supports several thousand more in the country’s 13,000 restaurants, pubs and retailers. Wine sales are slightly up this year thanks to the upturn in the economy and Chile is still the most popular country with just over a quarter of all wine we buy coming from this small and incredibly consistent wine producer.
Australia comes second but this is almost all inexpensive supermarket wine as the strength of the Australian dollar has made quality Australian wines a more difficult sell. France comes third at just under 13% with Spain hot on its heels at 12.3% followed by Italy at 9.7%.
This column does (I admit) have a bias towards the wines of our European neighbours but this is mainly thanks to the huge diversity of wine to be found in France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. I illustrate this a little this week with six very different wines from France that taste nothing like their New World equivalents. French wine sales are on at the moment in a number of supermarkets so now is a good time to revisit the wines of the world’s most important wine producer.
Besides the three mentioned below the Lidl French wine sale also sees the return of their Fleurie for €11.99 plus a Beaujolais Villages and some decent wines from the Languedoc and Southern Rhone, many costing less than €10.
My other three picks over €15 are from family-owned importer Mackenway which has a very reliable range covering all the world’s major wine regions. At Mackenway’s portfolio tasting recently there were dozens of wines worth featuring with Spain, Chile and France strong. Besides the wines below watch for their Gosset Champagnes and its excellent Chateauneuf-du-Papes from Mont-Redon and Mas de Boislauzon.
For the diary: Symington Port Food and wine-matching dinner in Les Gourmandises on October 4. Cost: €80. Tickets in O’Briens, Douglas.
Chateau Les Jamnets Graves 2016, Bordeaux, France — €10.99
Bordeaux Blanc rarely gets a mention on this page as too many of the inexpensive wines are simple and inconsequential, and the (often sublime) high end wines are too hard to find. This has lots of soft pear and sweet apple flavours and would be good with cheese or with rich
autumnal mushroom, pork or chicken dishes.
Vinsobres Cru de Cotes du Rhone 2016, Rhone, France — €9.99
Vinsobres is just five miles of hillside in the North-East of the Cotes-du-Rhone Appellation near Rasteau and probably one of the least known of the Cru villages. The wines tend to be a little fleshier and softer and this example is almost too soft with warm, lightly spicy plum and
blackberry fruits — one for a damp cool evening perhaps.
Bourgogne Hautes-Cotes de Beaune 2015, Burgundy, France — €12.99
The vineyards in the Hautes-Cotes de Beaune and Hautes-Cotes de Nuits are quite high in the hills and their wines are lighter (and sometimes harsher) but can offer very good value. This has earth tinged redcurrant aromas with light creamy and supple red fruits following through on the palate with pleasing texture and freshness.
Domaine de Villargeau Coteaux du Giennois, Loire Valley — €18.99
Stockists: Baggot St Wines, Martins, Gerrys Skerries, Cashel Wine Cellar, JJ O’Driscolls, 1601 Kinsale.
Coteaux du Giennois is to the north-east of Sancerre but always less expensive. You don’t get the same mineral intensity of the best wines of Sancerre but Giennois usually makes up for it with fragrance and elegance.
Chateau Bellevue la Foret 2014, Fronton, France — €16.99
Stockists: Vintry, Martins, Corkscrew, Next Door.
Owned by Irish businessman Philip Grant this is the best known producer in the Fronton region near Toulouse. A blend of the local Negrette with Syrah and Cabernet I always think this wine harks back to a more traditional style of winemaking with its soft tobacco-tinged red and black fruits and a lingering herbal and pepper tinged elegant finish.
Chateau Vincens 2014, Cahors, France — €17.99
Stockists: Worldwide Wines Waterford, Redmonds, Martins, Vintry.
With Argentinian Malbec sales growing it is worth trying the original of the species as Cahors is thought to be where the grape originates. Cahors can be a little earthy and rustic but Chateau Vincens shows off the grape well with bright aromas of spicy ripe plums, concentrated dark fruits with a touch of smoke and a pleasing grippy finish.
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