By Leslie Williams
Valentine’s Day is in a few days so this week’s column offers some gift suggestions, both conventional and more unusual.
It is hard to go wrong with fizz and Prosecco, Cava and Champagne are on special offer everywhere — the best deal I’ve found is Bollinger Special Cuvée at €55 in O’Briens and SuperValu.
If that sounds too expensive I recommend the Beaumont des Crayères in O’Briens at €33 or either Aldi’s Veuve Monsigny or Lidl’s Comte de Brismand — or you could pick the Crémant de Jura in Aldi for about €12.
Pink gin has been cropping up a lot in recent months and seems to be developing into a category of its own and you will see a few on special this weekend.
Gordon’s Premium Pink (€25) is widely available and Lidl has launched two under the Hortus label — a raspberry and a rhubarb and ginger version.
All of these are on the sweet side with lots of red berry fruit flavours so may work better in cocktails than in a G&T.
Last summer’s release of blackwater’s strawberry gin may still be around so opt for that if you prefer just a touch of sweetness.
Following the love theme, Bubble Brothers in the English Market has a Saint-Amour Cru Beaujolais for €21 and for something very special with a heart on the label Greenacres in Co Wexford has 1995 Calon-Ségur Grand Cru Classé for €150 per bottle.
At more down-to-earth prices O’Briens has a good selection of wines on offer as buy-one, get-one half price including the darkly spicy L’Ostal Cazes Estibals Minervois and old vine Cruz de Piedra Garnacha.
All my featured suggestions this week are rich generous wines, not that I am suggesting that rich and generous are traits we should look for in a lover, although they are unlikely to be seen to as flaws.
The way to many an Irishman’s heart is Châteauneuf-du-Pape (especially if you throw in a steak for good measure), but if your lover is a white wine fan then I’m suggesting you look to Galicia.
Sushi is the perfect seduction food in my view (c.f. Miyazaki) and the whites below will work well but I’m suggesting you try Fino Sherry.
Finally the generously fruited apassimento wines from the hills of Verona are hard to fault and I suggest two below.
BEST VALUE UNDER €15
Gran Passione Rosso del Veneto, Italy — €13.95
Stockists: JJ O’Driscoll, Karwigs Cork, Molloys Dublin.
The first of two love-themed wines for the week that is in it. Made with partially dried corvina and merlot grapes (the former being the premium grape in Valpolicella and Amarone). Bright and fruity with aromas of black cherries and plums this has solid fruit flavours with concentrated berry fruits on the palate and a pleasing lingering tartness.
Pasqua Romeo and Juliet Passimento, Veneto, Italy — €12.95-14.95
Stockists: O’Briens, No. 21, Matsons, Ardkeen, McHughs, Martins, Independents
In fair Verona there is a wall filled with messages to Juliet, some taped on, others in graffiti as depicted on this wine’s label. This is a blend of dried (apassimento) and fresh corvina, croatina and merlot grapes with cherry and allspice aromas and lots of bright juicy cherry and forest fruit flavours.
Tio Pepe Fino Sherry, Spain — €14
Stockist: SuperValu, widely available.
I haven’t featured this icon wine in a few year’s — normally around €16 it is on special this week in SuperValu. I view this as the perfect springtime drink and it goes brilliantly with oysters and sushi — both Valentine’s day favourites. The salty tangy citrus freshness is also perfect with fish and chips and as an aperitif.
BEST VALUE OVER €15
Cunas Davia Ribeiro, Galicia, Spain — €21.95
Stockists: Karwigs Carrigaline www.karwigwines.ie
Galicia is a region you will see more of in 2018, particularly in restaurants, as its food-friendly whites and occasional reds offer great value. A blend of trincadeira, albarino and godello this has fragrant peach, pear and apple aromas with a textured creamy pear-confit palate and lingering mineralstony acidity. New from Karwigs so only available in Carrigaline for now.
Maga Godello, Ribeira Sacra, Galicia — €17.95
Stockists: Karwigs Carrigaline
A second new Galician white from Karwigs, this time a pure Godello from Ribeira Sacra in eastern Galicia. Floral and fragrant with white flowers and tropical fruits, textured and complex on the palate with ripe pears and a clean crisp finish. This region also produces excellent red Mencia.
Les Cailloux Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2013, Rhone, France — €45.95
Stockists: 1601, Selected CarryOuts (e.g. Carrigaline, Muckross Rd. Killarney, Lucan), Karwigs
All the wines this week have an opulent character but none more than this fine example of Chateauneuf-du-Pape from Domaine André Brunel. Big ripe fruit aromas of sweet raspberry and blackberry with a touch of spice, supple and full-fruited, ripe and complex with lingering berry fruit flavours.