Just a few hours left to pick up some stocking fillers and to make sure you have every possible flavour in the house to match the food over the next couple of days.
The Weekend beer and cider slot has been out of commission for a few weeks due to lack of space so I haven’t been able to inform you of all the seasonal beers launched in recent weeks.
O’Haras have released the sixth edition of their limited edition barrel-aged Leann Folláin Stout which is aged in Irish whiskey barrels for three months and is then bottle conditioned.
This comes in at just over 8% and has a dark caramel and hop aroma and a rich reamy texture — perhaps one to match the Christmas ham.
Eight Degrees in Mitchelstown have also released an Imperial Stout (9.9%) aged in Burgundy Pinot Noir casks plus a Farmhouse Ale aged in Chardonnay casks — the latter is a potential match for the turkey and ham.
These are in attractive Champagne style bottles so would make a good gift — available in good craft beer shops such as Bradleys, Amber Fermoy, McHughs, etc.
Molloys in Dublin have linked up again with Rascals Brewing and their Fairy Ale of New York (5 for €10) is a moreish crisp golden ale (5%) perfect for parties and for eating with leftovers.
There are dozens more so make sure to drop into your local independent off-licence. I have made some of my worst wine buys on Christmas Eve so be careful out there – I still remember (and not fondly) that thin dried out Gevrey-Chambertin I paid £25 for back in 1994.
Your local wine shop needs your business this year more than ever but I also recommend a couple of supermarket bargains below.
A couple I didn’t have room for include SuperValu’s Costa Mediana Amarone at €20, their Tour Baladoz St-Emilion Grand Cru 2005 is excellent value at €25 and their Charles Mignon Champagne is well worth its €30.
Below are my final Christmas picks including a less common suggestion for Christmas dinner — Ribera del Duero which has arguably stolen Rioja’s crown in recent years.
Ribera wines tend to be more fruit driven, darker and riper and I recommend Martin Berdugo (Sheridans), Pesquera (widely available in better off-licences), Semele (Karwigs) or Ebano (Vintry, Independents).
Best value under €15
Dunnes Stores, SuperValu, Tesco
Doña Paula is one of the most reliable Argentinian wines in the country and this unusual red blend is on special offer (down from €15) this month. A blend of 60% Malbec, 35% Cabernet and a little Petit Verdot this is packed with spicy ripe fruits — blackberry, blueberry and blackcurrants — and lingers longer on the palate than this price deserves.
There is also a light simple Sauvignon Blanc under this label but this is the better of the two — smoky ripe black fruits, supple and refreshing. Also watch for the Dulong Sauternes (€12), Plan du Roy Languedoc (€10 gets you good savoury smoked fig flavours) and Vinsobres Cotes du Rhone (€12).
Albariño is rarely sold at this price and this is my bargain pick for the Christmas starter (besides Champagne, nothing beats Champagne to begin the Christmas dinner). Peachy aromas mixed with dried lemon, fruity and fresh. Also watch in SuperValu for the La Baume range which should all be around €10-12 and for the Nugan Estate range.
Best value over €15
Matsons Grange and Bandon, Baggot Street Wines, Mitchells.
The Seifried family are celebrating 40 years of winemaking this year and the whole family made the trip to Ireland recently to celebrate with their importers Classic Drinks based in Little Island. Their late-harvest Sweet- Agnes Riesling is a thing of beauty.
O’Donovans Cork, JJ O’Driscolls, Matsons, O’Donovans, World Wide Wines, Terroirs, On The Grapevine
Three generations of the Moro family have tended the land here and this is typical of the wines of the region. Made from 100% Tempranillo (Tinta Fino is the local name) and showing lots of rich colour, dense plum and chocolate aromas and fine acidity and freshness with a lingering fruity finish.
Bradleys Cork and selected Independents
This is a rare and special treat from Gonzales Byass of Tio Pepe fame. A blend of 12 year old Palo Cortado and a touch of 12 year old sweet PX wine aged a further 18 years. Intense smoky caramelised fig and treacle aromas and flavours, off-dry rather than sweet and perhaps for the paté rather than the pudding. For the pudding go for the Mathusalem.