School is back, holidays are over but don’t despair, wine is here to help you through.
I know there was another report from the puritans in the USA telling us that it is bad for us but so is just about everything except in moderation. A friend suggested praying was all that was left but what if you were unlucky in your choice of religion and there really is a vengeful god? I’m sticking with food, wine and music — I’m at Electric Picnic as you read this so do head to the Theatre of Food if you are at Electric Picnic (text your friends).
After such a warm summer it is easy to forget the chaos of the snow which had a surprising effect on wine-buying patterns. Often the only shop open was the local Spar, Mace or Londis and many ended up sold out of wine. Sales have continued strongly in the convenience sector as consumers realised they were getting wines of decent or good quality for fair prices.
BWG (which owns Spar, Londis, Mace) took a group of us to France to meet some of its suppliers (Boisset in Burgundy) recently, and I was quite impressed with the wines we got to taste. I recommend a couple below and will mention others as they arrive in stock.
September always sees lots of sales and promotions so keep your eyes peeled. The French Wine Sale at Dunnes Stores has a range of good- value wines, particularly from southern France. I like the Lauren Miquel range (Solas Viognier, Albarino, Claccson) and would also recommend the Picpoul de Pinet, Cotes de Gascogne and the Metz Pinot Blanc — all around €12. From the Bordeaux selection I liked the Chateau Bois Pertuis, the Chateau le Joyeux and the Chateau Guillou.
O’Briens also has a sale which began yesterday and you will find reductions across the full range. Many of their most popular wines are reduced, often by €4 to €5. The excellent D’Arry’s Grenache-Shiraz is reduced to €14 (from €23), Monte Real G Res Rioja is at half price at €17, M de Riscal Reserva is at €18 (from €24) and the early drinking Chateau Fourcas Hoston 2007 is at €19.95 (from €30). I recommend two of its better wines below and hope to recommend a couple of its new wines next weekend.
BEST VALUE UNDER €15
Stockists: Spar, EuroSpar, Londis, Mace
Saint-Chinian is one of the more consistent Languedoc regions with pure ripe fruity wines. The best is often from old vines grown on schist ataltitude as with this wine (lower down where limestone predominates you get softer blander wines). This has pleasing dark fruit aromas, supple and juicy on the palate with blackcurrants and smoky touches.
Stockists: Spar, EuroSpar, Londis, Mace
Minervois is the Languedoc’s third biggest AOP (after Corbieres andCoteaux du Langudoc) and there are a range of sites with different styles. Again I find wines from altitude often have an edge. This has rounded red and black fruit aromas and a soft juicy fruit-driven profile that is attractive and appetising. A suitable wine for a big bowl of cassoulet perhaps.
Stockist: Dunnes Stores
Faugeres has a slate and schist-dominated terroir perfect for producing fruit-driven wines and is a name worth learning. From a Franco-Irish team whose wines I mention frequently this wine was new to me — a blend of syrah-grenache (80% to 20%) this has textured palate with cherries and good density and brightness. Quite a serious wine for such a low price.
BEST VALUE OVER €15
Stockist: O’Briens This biodynamic wine is normally €39 so is well worth picking up at this price. It also ages well. I recently drank a delicious 2012 that could easily have been kept longer. Aromas of wild dark fruits tinged with herbs and flowers (thyme, heather) — packed with rich plum and blackberry fruits, complex, textured and delicious.
Stockist: O’Briens Another wine worth ageing. I recently drank an excellent 2009. Normally costing €36, this represents a saving of €10. Aromas of smoky red fruits with touches of tar and cold tea, lithely fruity and fresh with good complexity and textured taut fruits on the finish. These days the best Barolo costs €60 plus, if you can afford them, go for it. This suits me just fine.
Stockist: Spar, EuroSpar, Londis, Mace Vacqueyras is just to the northwest of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. It ripens earlier and is often softer and more fruit driven than Giogndas or Chateauneuf-du-Pape and always much better value. This has cherry and ripe red and black fruit aromas, supple and juicy on the attack with good ripeness, pleasing supple fruits and a liquorice-tinged, dark-fruit finish.