Great value direct from the vineyard

THERE are absolutely cracking wines out there in all sorts of retailers — in the big supermarkets and wine specialists alike.

Each store will have its stars, and each will have its share of wines that are dull and dispiriting, or too dear for what you’re getting, or sometimes both.

Those strengths and weaknesses can be deceptive though.

While the supermarkets are the more obvious targets for the canny bargainista — and I certainly urge everyone to leap on good wines sold at a discount there — it is surprising how frequently you’ll find the best value bottles stocked by the upmarket wine specialists.

That certainly proves to be the case with From Vineyards Direct — a UK-based online wine retailer which last year began selling here at www.FromVineyardsDirect.ie.

Their site and the wines listed on it — selling at €15, €20 and up — bear all the hallmarks of posh. But at their most recent tasting, I (re)discovered quite a few smashing wines at some pretty modest prices. As well as these great value highlights (right), some of the other wines worth taking a look at include their Saint Veran Merloix Janny 2008 (€13.95) and the astonishingly good value Casa Catelli Pinot Grigio Veneto 2009 (€8.95).

Tempting trip through New Zealand’s wines

IF you can make it, please be sure to get along to the annual New Zealand wine tasting from 6.30pm to 8.30pm at the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Golden Lane, Dublin 8 on Monday, January 17.

Practically every Kiwi wine on the Irish market will be open to taste so it’s quite an eye-opener to delve in.

The list of 30-plus wineries pouring samples on the night is mouthwatering. Glancing through it I see the likes of Giesen Montana (which is being relaunched as Brancott Estate); Cloudy Bay; Hunters, Lawson’s Dry Hills, Nautilus Estate, Siefried Estate, Spy Valley, Villa Maria and Waipara Hills.

Whiz round and taste willy-nilly. Or pick a theme and stick to it. For instance, you could sample only reds (the country has developed quite a knack of making smashing cabernets and merlots alongside their legendary pinot noirs). Or get up close and personal with just one grape. Sauvignon blanc or the aforementioned pinot noir are obvious candidates, but I’d suggest you could spend a rewarding hour with kiwi pinot gris/grigio — luscious and semi-sweet or expressive and dry, the underrated grape has become a New Zealand speciality.

Buy tickets (€15) online at www.newzealandwineevents.co.uk or by cheque or postal order from Jean Smullen on 086 816 8468, or at jean@jeansmullen.com.

* ALTERNATIVELY, there’s another New Zealand event on the same evening. From 7pm, the Ely Bar and Brasserie at the IFSC Dublin 1 is hosting a wine tasting with Kevin Judd and Matt Thompson. Best known for creating the iconic Cloudy Bay, Kevin’s new venture is Greywacke which is being distributed in Ireland by Liberty Wines. Matt — who will be presenting wines from his Tin Pot range — was named White Wine Maker of the Year at the 2008 International Wine Challenge awards in London. The team at Ely will be pairing dishes to Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc (a ‘wild ferment’, made only with native, naturally-occurring yeasts) a sweet Gewürztraminer and a brand-new Pinot Noir. Phone 01 672 0010 or email wineclub@elywinebar.com for bookings and further details.

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