Wine with Leslie Williams: Searching for opulence

Food and wine writers are constantly asked to name their favourite dish, restaurant, or wine, and I never know what to say.
Wine with Leslie Williams: Searching for opulence

Food and wine writers are constantly asked to name their favourite dish, restaurant, or wine, and I never know what to say.

I don’t do favourites — no favourite colour or scent or movie or book, and certainly no favourite wine.

Inevitably, however, there are wines and wine styles to which I return most often and some I explore less, but I fight to keep my mind open.

At these two extremes are probably pinot noir and sauvignon blanc.

The former always offers intriguing aromas, even at entry level, and the latter is always a little more straightforward, whatever the price or reputation.

Yesterday was Sauvignon Blanc Day, sponsored by Wines of New Zealand and the Loire, the two regions we most associate with the grape.

They too are in contrast, with New Zealand offering almost luscious ripe wines and sancerre and pouilly-fumé offering minerality and restraint.

In these lockdown days I have been seeking out opulence so I’m looking to New Zealand — the sancerre I have ageing will have to wait.

My red burgundy stocks are diminishing, however; although it doesn’t offer opulence, it does offer more complexity and intrigue than any other wine region and always puts a smile on my face.

My selections below reflect my recent drinking.

I found a bottle of Regnaudot Maranges 2014 and it had aged nicely with more mushroom character that went beautifully with my provisions box from Allta restaurant in Dublin — the caramelised lamb with kale and seaweed pappardelle was a perfect match.

The next night I compared it to the current 2017 vintage with some confit duck — the extra fruit suited the duck and cut through the fat but I did miss the extra hit of earthiness that six years’ ageing had provided.

Yes with all this duck, pasta, and burgundy I am indeed afraid to go near a weighing scales.

Sadly I’ve also drunk my last bottle of Róisín Curley so she gets a mention too.

Róisín is a Ballyhaunis native and micro-négociant who now has a number of wines in her portfolio — she made 9,000 bottles in the 2019 vintage.

She now even has a tiny quantity of Chambolle Musigny and Nuits Saint George all outstanding and a relative bargain given the quality.

Best value under €15

Wildflower Sauvignon Blanc, Romania — €9

Stockist: O’Briens www.wine.ie

This is from Cramele Recas in Romania, a solid producer that is very hard to beat on price-quality ratio.

The Wildflower range is consistent and includes a range of varietals including a fragrant pinot grigio and a fruit-driven shiraz.

Warm floral, tropical fruit aromas with passionfruit and green apple and a touch of acidity on the finish.

Chill this one well.

Incanta Pinot Noir, Recas, Romania — €9.99

Stockists: JJ O’Driscolls, O’Donovans, Ardkeen, Vintry Rathgar, 64 Wines, Independents

There are few drinkable pinot noirs under a tenner, especially if you are looking for even a touch of subtlety.

This is from the same producer as the Wildflower sauvignon and there is a Wildflower pinot in a similar style — charming red fruits, supple texture with some grip and earthy subtlety.

Yealands Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough,New Zealand — €12-€13.99

Stockists: J.J. O’Driscolls Superstore Cork, Ardkeen Stores, Jus de Vine, JC Savages, Joyces Galway, Independents

This is one of the best New Zealand sauvignons under €15, one of the best I’ve tasted.

Yealand’s wines are consistently good; if you like extra ripeness, spend a little more on the Estate version.

I’d still pick this as I like its crisp linear flavours with bright apple fruits and gooseberry freshness.

Best value over €15

Jean Claude Regnaudot Maranges 2017,Burgundy — €30-€31

Stockists: Le Caveau Kilkenny www.lecaveau.ie, Bradleys, Good Day Deli, Blackrock Cellars, Baggot Street wines, Fallon & Byrne

Maranges is in the southern Côtes-de-Beaune near Santenay.

I’ve tasted this wine with some age and young and it is always hugely enjoyable.

Aromas of forest floor, cherries, and red currants, supple mushroom-tinged red fruits on the palate.

Textured and more complex than you’d expect.

Róisín Curley Beaune 2017, Burgundy,France — €55-€57

Stockists: Bradleys, Green Man Wines, 64 Wine, Clontarf Wines,Donnybrook Fair. mitchellandson.com, wineonline.ie, siyps.com

This specific wine may be hard to find but all Róisín’s wines are excellent and stockists above stock at least one.

The 2017 Beaune is is little brighter and fresher than the 2015 — gentle extraction, youthful but silky, fleshy red fruits, and spice notes with grip and elegance.

Yealands Estate Pinot Noir 2019,Marlborough, New Zealand — €19.99-€20.99

Stockists: J.J. O’Driscolls Superstore Cork, Ardkeen Stores, Jus de Vine, JC Savages, Joyces Galway, Independents

Peter Yealands is as solid a winemaker with pinot as with sauvignon and his carbon-neutral coastal vineyards in Marlborough are well situated.

This lively, fruity pinot noir brims with cherry and raspberry aromas, textured fruits on the palate with a pleasing, fleshy, restrained quality.

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