Weekend wine with Blake Creedon

THE most expensive bottle of wine I’ve ever encountered which I thought would be worth the price (if one had the bucks to spare) cost about €32 retail.
Weekend wine with Blake Creedon

“Wow,” you might say, “you really have to pay big bucks for those really special wines eh?”

Well maybe not. Because this particular one (a Puligny-Montrachet — chardonnay of course) cropped up at a tasting of Burgundies whose prices ranged up to €350. Compared to the wines you and I actually buy, this looks like an astonishingly expensive extravagance. But it’s more useful to compare it to its peers: it beat the socks off wines costing multiples of its price. And that’s a phenomenon I see happening at every price point.

It’s just one example that might illustrate the wobbly on-again off-again relationship between price and quality. Broadly speaking, there is a sort-of correlation between the two. But I’d emphasise that link’s looseness. The mantra of those who sell wine in ostensibly upmarket wine shops — that “you have to spend more to get better wine” — has been taken up by many wine fans but it is misleading.

Yes, many particularly carefully-made wines do command a higher price than their peers. But wine buffs and wine salespeople alike then ask us to perform a logical backflip and conclude that therefore each extra euro you spend buys you extra quality. So, so often it doesn’t.

My highlights today are great value wines I found at the O’Donovans chains of off-licences around Cork city and county — but the general theme is true for any wine shop, and the wines highlighted are reasonably widely available.

* See my blog at www.blakecreedon.wordpress.com for further background on wine and beer.

* The Corkscrew’s Summer Wine Fair takes place tomorrow from 1pm to 6pm at the Westbury Hotel, just around the corner from the shop on Chatham Street, Dublin 2. Tickets (from 01-6745731 or www.thecorkscrew.ie) cost €25 which is a direct donation to Barnardos.

Brown Brothers Sangiovese 2006

O’Donovan’s off-licences €8.99

Brown Brothers are like a law unto themselves, going their own merry way making good popular wines with overlooked and forgotten grape varietals. They’re one of the few in the new world to touch this Italian staple, sangiovese: typically for the Victoria winery, the end result is a delightfully easy-to-drink soft wine garlanded with fragrant cherries.

Marqués de Cáceres Rosado 2009

O’Donovan’s off-licences €9.99

Crisp acidity to the point of austerity sets off the swoony strawberry scent in this relatively rare tempranillo garnacha rosé from Rioja. You’ll also find it in Dublin at Fresh Stores; Kellys, Clontarf. Cork at Barry’s Midleton and Bradley’s North Main Street. Galway: Joyce’s Supermarket, Knocknacarra. Limerick: Macs Off Licence. Wicklow: Next Door, Wicklow Town.

Hungaria Sparkling NV

O’Donovan’s off-licences €9.99

This is a taut, dry electric sparkler from (of course) Hungary. It’s a blend of chardonnay and riesling — a relatively rare appearance in a blend for the latter grape. I’ve happily recommended it when it’s been priced up around €15ish and more, so this is a snip.

Peter Lehmann Barossa Shiraz

O’Donovan’s off-licences €10.99

Peter Lehmann is one of the names I cite most frequently for sheer value for money, but this one I think is a particularly good example: a handsome expressive example of the noble grape from Australia’s famous Barossa Valley.

Stockists also include the following: Dublin (O’Brien’s) Galway (Cases) Kilkenny (Le Caveau) and online at Wineonline.ie

Pascual Toso Malbec Reserva

O’Donovan’s off-licences €14.99

A lovely old-fashioned honest-to-goodness plump fragrant red, its brighter berry notes beautifully bedded in earthy coffee aromas. You will also find it in Dublin at 64 Wine on Glasthule Road, at Donnybrook Fair, and in Galway at the Vineyard on Quay St, and online via www.thevineyard.ie.

Saint Clair Marlborough Riesling 2007

O’Donovan’s off-licences €16

I’ve quibbled with some bottles featured in the National Off-Licence Association Gold Star Awards down the years, but it does turn up plenty of interesting, good value wines each year, including this, their New World White Under €20 for this year, the light citrussy riesling. Widely available at up to 300 independent off-licences nationwide.

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