Wine with Leslie Williams: Sticking with Ireland’s favourite Iberian grape, Albariño

Wine with Leslie Williams: Sticking with Ireland’s favourite Iberian grape, Albariño

So as the lockdown continues I have been re-reading some classic wine books and particularly enjoyed revisiting Hugh Johnson’s The Story of Wine which tells of mankind’s relationship with the grape since ancient times — you can pick up a secondhand copy for under a tenner on Amazon.

If you too have been boning up on your wine knowledge during these lockdown times can I recommend you test yourself by visiting the website www.thegreedycouple.com where you will find some excellent challenging quizzes on wine and also food. I curated a wine quiz for them which went live last weekend — it won’t of course be challenging for anyone who reads this column regularly and has a good memory.

My selections this week are mostly white wines from the Iberian peninsula, not a Sauvignon or Chardonnay among them, just fine quality native grapes coaxed into delicious wines by excellent producers in non touristy parts of Spain and Portugal. I could have included any number of ‘Green’ Spain’s excellent wines made from Verdejo or Godello but from the north west I’ve stuck with Ireland’s favourite Iberian grape Albariño — we are one of their best export markets after all.

In eastern Spain my favourite grape is probably Xarel-lo which is an important part of Cava but also of the white wines of Catalonia where it can be textured and creamy while also bristling with freshness and attitude. Macabeo/Viura can have its charms also and you definitely need to try Basque Txakoli especially with seafood. Portuguese white wines are even more diverse and are one of the wine world’s best-kept secrets.

Alvarinho and Verdelho you know but also watch for Loureiro, Arinto and Antão Vaz. Don’t be afraid of grapes such as Bical, Roupeiro, or Fernão Pires and don’t expect single varietal wines — the Portuguese like to blend and they are skilled at it. In the Dão look for Encruzado, a grape that has fascinating pine-lemon-almond-pepper and rose petal aromas, sometimes all at once.

I have also included a token French rosé to remind you that O’Brien’s ‘Buy 1 Get 2nd Free’ Summer Rosé offer has begun. All the old favourites are there including O’Brien’s wine director Lynne Coyle’s ‘Rós’ from Navarre, Petit Bourgeois Pinot Noir from the Loire and Gérard Bertrand’s Côte des Roses.

Best Value Over €15

Wine with Leslie Williams: Sticking with Ireland’s favourite Iberian grape, Albariño

`Ikigall` Penedès Blanco, Cataluña, Spain — €19.99

Stockists: Matsons, Cinnamon Cottage, Bradleys bradleysofflicence.ie, Luceys Mallow, McHughs, Baggot Street Wines, Blackrock Cellar, Clontarf Wines, Dwans, Dollard & Co., Jus de Vine, Martins

This is 85% Xarel-lo plus some Malvasia and Muscat and has a bright pear and blossom aroma, textured creamy confit pear on the palate off-set by a bitter lemon freshness on the finish.

Lagar de Pintos Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain — €24.99

Wine with Leslie Williams: Sticking with Ireland’s favourite Iberian grape, Albariño
Lagar de Pintos Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain — €24.99

Stockists: The Corkscrew www.thecorkscrew.ie, Ely Wine Store Maynooth, www.wineonline.ie

From a 5.5ha family-owned organic vineyard in Salnés, the coastal sub-region of Rias Baixas that is often a full degree cooler than elsewhere in Rias Baixas. Aromas of white peaches mixed with yellow apples, pristine and fresh on the palate with textured fruits and good complexity.

Quinta dos Carvalhais Dão Colheita Branco, Portugal — €21.99

Stockists: Lucey’s Mallow, The Wine Centre, Kilkenny, Blackrock Cellar, McHughs, Martins www.martinsofflicence.ie The Corkscrew www.thecorkscrew.ie, www.wineonline.ie

A blend dominated by the Encruzado grape plus some Gouveio (Verdelho). Concentrated pear, melon and white flower aromas, soft and creamy on the palate with lithe and lingering textured fruits.

Best Value Under €15

Wine with Leslie Williams: Sticking with Ireland’s favourite Iberian grape, Albariño

Albet i Noya Curiós, Penedès,Spain — €14.99

Stockists: JJ O’Driscolls, Fields Skibbereen, Organico, Little Greengrocer Kilkenny, Vintry, www.marypawlewines.com

The organic Penedès producer Albet i Noya appears here regularly. This is of course made with Xarel-lo, Catalonia’s best white grape (in my view), creamy pear fruit aromas and soft pear and apple flavours on the palate with a pleasing zingy freshness on the finish.

Luzón Finca La Solana Blanco, Jumilla,Spain — €9

Stockists: O’Briens Stores nationwide www.wine.ie

Macabeo is not always considered the most exciting grape variety but if treated carefully it shares some of the virtues of Xarel-lo (to which it is likely related). In Rioja it is known as Viura and sometimes barrel fermented to make long-lived intriguing wines. Here they have gone for the crisp fresh style with floral and tropical fruit aromas and a zingy fresh finish.

L’Ostal Cazes Rosé, Languedoc,France — €12-€15.95

Stockist: O’Briens stores nationwide

Apologies that this doesn’t fit under €15 but if you buy two bottles you will get them for just under €12 each as part of O’Briens’ annual ‘Buy 1, Get 2nd Half-Price’ Rosé offer — one of the treats of summertime in Ireland. Gorgeous pale colour, fruity floral aromas, a solid hit of strawberry fruits on the palate and a bone dry finish.

Stockists: JJ O’Driscolls, Fields Skibbereen, Organico, Little Greengrocer Kilkenny, Vintry, www.marypawlewines.com

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