Wine with Leslie: Red wine you can drink cool — and Spanish Food and Wine Week is coming back

Organic wine recommendations — and a tip for a great present for anyone turning 35 this year
Wine with Leslie: Red wine you can drink cool — and Spanish Food and Wine Week is coming back

Red wine: the focus of this week's Wine with Leslie

Get your diary out as Spanish Food and Wine Week is back this Autumn from October 4-10. Covid-permitting I plan to host a series of wine dinners and lunches in some of my favourite places including Solas in Dingle, the Mustard Seed in Ballingarry and the Burren Storehouse in Lisdoonvarna. There will be tastings and events nationwide, all focused around the joys of wines from Spain which represents around 15% of Irish wine sales — only Chile sells more wine here than Spain.

My selections this week are all from Spain with a new soft juicy zero-sulphur red bargain in O’Briens and two of Spain’s best white grape varieties: Verdejo and Xarel-lo.

Verdejo is the great grape of Rueda just 70 minutes north-west of Madrid. Most Verdejo is for early drinking and it is Spain’s most popular white wine but there are a few producers treating it seriously. However, I recommend one here that is the closest Spain gets to white Burgundy (sadly the price is also similar as no expense is spared). Rueda is also one of the few places in Europe with pre-phylloxera vines as the Verdejo planted on sandy soils around Segovia is immune to the troublesome little Yankee aphid.

Xarel-lo is the best white grape of Penedès and is commonly used in the best Cava and Corpinnat (the top rank of fizz from Penedès) where it is usually paired with Parellada and Macabeo. DNA analysis suggests Macabeo and Xarel-lo are closely related but as is often the case the two grapes produce rather different wines with Xarel-lo creamy and complex and Macabeo rather neutral in comparison. Macabeo is known as Viura in Rioja and there it is sometimes given royal treatment with oak fermentation and aging which can transform it into an ageworthy complex wine.

I’ve tasted 40- and 50-year-old examples of white Rioja and they are fascinating but you need a lot of patience. The easiest one to find is Marqués de Murrieta Capellanía (O’Briens have the new vintage at €23.95 this month — €1 less than normal), which I will review another time.

O’Briens have a Spanish sale on this month and have some other Spanish whites I like including Alma Godello and Lagar de Costa Albariño all reduced. If you want to try the ne plus ultra of white Rioja, the Castillo Ygay 1986 Blanco is reduced from €450 to €360, a saving of €90 — a perfect 35th birthday present!

Wine Under €15

Luzón No Added Sulphur, Jumilla Spain 2020 — €10.95
Luzón No Added Sulphur, Jumilla Spain 2020 — €10.95

Luzón No Added Sulphur, Jumilla Spain 2020 — €10.95

Stockist: O’Briens

This organic wine is new to the O’Briens range and reduced from €14 in their Spanish wine sale. Jumilla is near Alicante so this uses the local Monastrell (Mourvèdre) grape. This is fruity, juicy and soft with blackberry aromas and ripe soft dark fruits on the palate. If you think it is too warm to drink red wine this will also work well served cool — at say 10°C.


                        De Alberto Verdejo, Rueda, Spain — €11.95
De Alberto Verdejo, Rueda, Spain — €11.95

De Alberto Verdejo, Rueda, Spain — €11.95

Stockist: O’Briens Off-Licences nationwide

This Verdejo is reduced from €15 this month which makes it particularly good value given its quality. Bright lemon and sweet apple aromas with a touch of anise and fennel — fruity, textured and crisp with a touch of bitter lemon on finish. The de Alberto winery also makes the traditional Rueda Dorado rancio style (not unlike Oloroso) but sadly it is not imported by O’Briens.

Albet i Noya Curiós, Penedès, Spain — €14.99
Albet i Noya Curiós, Penedès, Spain — €14.99

Albet i Noya Curiós, Penedès, Spain — €14.99

Stockists: JJ O’Driscolls, Connemara Hamper Company Clifden, Fields Skibbereen, Organico, Little Greengrocer Kilkenny, Vintry, marypawlewines.com

It’s a while since I featured Albet i Noya — one of the longest established organic producers in Spain. Their fizz is excellent; their reds are juicy; and their whites are textured and crisp. Made from 100% Xarel-lo with lots of creamy pear fruit and herbal aromas, soft apple and on the palate with a pleasing zingy freshness on the finish.

Wine Over €15

Circe Verdejo 2020, Rueda, Spain — €20.95
Circe Verdejo 2020, Rueda, Spain — €20.95

Circe Verdejo 2020, Rueda, Spain — €20.95

Stockists: Menloe Stores, Riney’s Sneem, Cashel Wine Store, Donnybrook Fair, McHughs.ie Blackrock Cellars, Delgany Grocer.

From the sandy, stony soils near the historic city of Segovia and named for the sorceress and feminist icon of Greek mythology. This is gorgeous and one of the most expressive Verdejos I’ve tasted — with ripe pear, lemon oil and fennel aromas and a rich, layered palate offering fruity but crisp lemon and pear flavours and a long finish.

Jean Leon Organic Xarel-lo 2020, Penedès, Spain — €20.95
Jean Leon Organic Xarel-lo 2020, Penedès, Spain — €20.95

Jean Leon Organic Xarel-lo 2020, Penedès, Spain — €20.95

Stockists: Bradleys, Ardkeen, Wine Centre, Wine House, Blackrock Cellars, Donnybrook Fair, Mitchell & Son, Deveneys Dundrum.

New to the Jean Leon range which is owned by the Torres Family — their other varietals are also worth trying. Single varietal Xarel-lo is almost always a treat and this is a great example with fennel, pear and herbal aromas and a hint of spice — textured and full-flavoured with a creamy texture and brisk refreshing acidity.

Belondrade Y Lurton 2018, Rueda, Spain — €56.99
Belondrade Y Lurton 2018, Rueda, Spain — €56.99

Belondrade Y Lurton 2018, Rueda, Spain — €56.99

Stockists: SC Grocer Monkstown, Sweeney’s D3, Deveneys, McHughs.ie, TheCorkscrew.ie, MartinsOffLicence.ie

This producer was a major highlight when I visited Rueda in 2018 so I’m delighted to see that it is still imported (by Solera Wines). This is Rueda’s answer to fine Burgundy: fermented and lees-aged in barriques — aromatic, textured, toasted vanilla and bright citrus and apple fruits, complex and layered with classic endive bitterness on the finish. The 2nd wine ‘Apollonia’ (€25) is also worth tasting.

Beer of the Week

Hope Overnight Oats IPA 5th Birthday Ale, 7.5% ABV, 440ml — €3.99
Hope Overnight Oats IPA 5th Birthday Ale, 7.5% ABV, 440ml — €3.99

Hope Overnight Oats IPA 5th Birthday Ale, 7.5% ABV, 440ml — €3.99

Stockists: Independent off-licences, O’Briens, Selected SuperValu, Molloys, McHughs.ie

Hope Brewery from Kilbarrick in Dublin is five years old this year and remains one of our most creative and interesting craft breweries. For their birthday this year, they have revived one of their limited edition beers made with Norwegian Kviek yeast, flaked oats and oat milk and dry-hopped with Mosaic hops.

This pours a pleasing hazy-gold colour with aromas of peaches and cream with touches of mandarin and grapefruit. On the palate, it has a pleasing creamy fullness with noticeable orange peel, sweet malt flavours and some good hop bitterness on the finish with a lingering hint of super-split ice cream.

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