The annual Drinks Ireland Wine report was issued recently and shows a couple of interesting trends.
Wine represents 27% of the alcohol market in Ireland (it is second after beer), and we remain the highest taxed country in the EU with €3.19 excise on every bottle and a further 23% VAT added onto the retail price at the till. Rosé sales increased by 1% to 6% of overall sales and consumption of wine per capita actually fell a little (as did alcohol consumption generally).
We still drink far less wine than our EU counterparts - just under 3 litres per head compared to double digits everywhere else, even beer-loving Belgium drinks 25 litres per head or so - the EU average is around 23 litres and yet we continue to be taxed like we are addicted to it and putting it on our cornflakes.
We still buy over a quarter (27%) of our wine from Chile, but Spain is now in second place at 14% pushing Australia into third and France into fourth followed by Italy (9.8%), New Zealand (7.1%), Argentina (3.6%) and South Africa (3.6%).
In 2013 Spain was in 6th place so the jump to 2nd is very impressive although I’m not in the least surprised given the diversity and quality Spain offers at all price levels. I’ve picked six Spanish wines below from regions you wouldn’t normally consider (and possibly have never heard of) - all are new to this page.
We often think of Spain as a brown desert-like place and yes parts of La Mancha are like that but then La Mancha also has rich green hillsides and mountains and is full of experimental wineries growing Bordeaux varieties. Green Spain in the north and in Galicia is spectacular with lush forests and steep valleys perfect for coaxing extra flavour out of grapes like Godello and Mencía.
In Rias Baixas the grapes are grown practically on the seashore, in Ribera del Duero they are on a high mountain plain 1000m above sea level, every region in Spain grows grapes and they have all had investment in the past two decades so you will struggle to find anything other than bright fruits and skilled winemaking. The Organic movement is strong thanks to a climate suited to organic viticulture and you will also find lots of minimal intervention and amphora wines from young winemakers and grizzled old fellas that have been doing that way for decades.
Stockist: Boutique Wines boutiquewines.ie
From Bodegas Señorio de Iniesta around 90 minutes drive west of Valencia and one of the many interesting Spanish wines imported by Boutique Wines. This is a white made from the red Bobal grape common to this region. Bright crisp apple aromas, ripe and fruity with soft tropical fruits and a crisp finish. Also consider their textured fruity Petit Verdot.
Stockists: Marks & Spencer
This is a great value red from M&S, sourced from a winery in Northeast Spain near the Pyrenees - they are shy about the exact region but I’m guessing Somontona or somewhere nearby. This is bright and juicy with sweet red fruits and just enough texture to allow it to work with food - I recommend serving this lightly chilled with a barbecue or maybe pizza.
Stockists: Next Door Ennis, Mortons Galway, Dalys, Foyles, Dicey Rileys, Vintry.
Vino de la Tierra de la Castilla covers a large region in Central Spain and you never know what you will find from Bobal to Petit Verdot to Sauvignon Blanc. The Mureda range is great value and solidly reliable with fizz, rosé and sauvignon in the range. This has bright liquorice and plum aromas, soft ripe red and darker fruits on the palate and good persistence.
Stockists: Boutique Wines boutiquewines.ie
One of three wines from Boutique this week and I include this partly so I can mention the grapes it contains, all underrated: Treixadura, Albariño, Loureira, Godello and Torrontés (unrelated to Argentine Torrontés). This is gorgeous, a layered floral, tropical nose with a tiny hint of spritz on the palate opening up the layers of pineapple and lime fruit flavours and a bonus & unexpected zingy crisp finish.
Stockists: Boutique Wines boutiquewines.ie
Monterrei is in Southern Galicia just over the River Miño from Portugal and a fine source for bright fruity red Mencía or textured whites from Treixadura, Albariño and Godello. This is a solid example with creamy bitter lemon aromas, layered, mineral and fruit driven with texture and freshness. The Alma de Autor Mencía from the same importer is also excellent for just €3 more.
Stockist: Whelehans Wines whelehanswines.ie
This is on offer at the moment and is a fine introduction to the joys of Xarel-lo, Catalonia’s best white grape and the star in most Cava and Corpinnat giving them body, density and acidity and allowing them to age into biscuity wondrousness. This has white flower and pear drop aromas with textured stony herbal freshness that few Chablis or Sancerre can manage and certainly not at this price.