Almost no other country produces so many drinkable wines at such good prices. If you are broke there are two country’s wines I recommend — Chile and Spain. Given the affinity of the Irish with Spain and that they have such terrible unemployment at the moment, Spain could be said to deserve your money more.
While we all know Rioja and Tempranillo there is so much more to the wines of Spain — from intense spicy Garnacha and Monastrell to the obscure delights of Graciano, Maturano and Mencia and Albariño, Godello, Loureira, Treixadura and Caiño Blanco in white.
Of particular interest at the recent Spanish Wine Fair in the Radisson Blu on Little Island was the tasting and seminar given by César Saldaño, general manager of the Consejo Regulador de Jerez which promotes and regulates Sherry. Sherry is at an interesting place at the moment as the popularity of the sweet Cream Sherries is waning here and in the UK (to be blunt, many of the fans of this style are dying and not being replaced). Conversely there are now 25 or so Sherry Bars in London catering to the hip and trendy who are eating Jamón Iberico with glasses of chilled Fino and dry Amontillado.
We don’t have Sherry Bars in Ireland yet but we do have dozens of tapas restaurants and all sell at least one dry Sherry so you have no excuse.
I will do a full column on Sherry in a few weeks time as in my opinion it is the most underrated and under-valued wine in the world and a new batch of unfiltered “En Rama” Finos and Manzanillas will be with us very soon (e.g. there will be a tasting at the Ballymaloe Lit Fest in May).
It seems cruel to pick out just six wines below given the riches on offer, so I will suggest some more Spanish wines in the coming weeks.
Karwigs Carrigaline, www.karwigwines.ie
A straightforward fruit-driven Tempranillo from Galicia which is more famous for its peachy Albariño grape. This is good quality for the price with fine perfumed red fruit aromas and a soft fruity palate. Perfect for Friday night Pizza or Tuesday night Bolognese.
O’Donovans, Organico Bantry, Mortons Galway, Clontarf Wines
Imported by the incomparable Mary Pawle who specialises in organic and bio-dynamic wines. I have yet to taste an Albet i Noya wine I didn’t love. Their entry level Tempranillo has bright damson and red fruit aromas — a clean redcurrant and blackberry driven palate and not a little elegance on the finish.
Martins Fairview, Drink Store Stoneybatter, Selected Next Door, World Wide Wines
Rueda is as good a place as any to begin exploring the white wines of Spain (then head for Galicia). Rueda’s Verdejo grape is now grown elsewhere but is at its best on home turf where the mineral and citrus qualities seem to shine best. Montespina’s version has nice lemon oil aromas mixed with washed pebbles and a lovely mineral and citrus clarity on the palate.
JJ O’Driscolls, O’Donovans, Vintry Rathgar
From the tiny region of Cigales near Rueda on the Camino de Santiago in North West Spain. This producer’s top wine Museum Real with the familiar metal label is also recommended. Aged for 15 months in American and French oak (60/40 split) this is concentrated quality Tempranillo with sweet ripe fruit and a solid juicy finish.
: Kingdom Stores Tralee, Next Door Kilkee, Black Pig Donnybrook, Redmonds Ranelagh
The consistently excellent Remelluri wines from Rioja are a treat — the Reserva (€28) is one of my favourite Spanish wines. Lindes is made from grapes sourced from just outside the main estate and has an aromatic and fleshy open style and nigh-on-perfect balance — be warned, one bottle may not be enough.
JJ O’Driscoll, McCambridges Galway, Black Pig Donnybrook, Daylys Boyle, Blackrock Cellar Dublin
Carinena and Garnacha are the main grapes and in true Priorat style this has beautiful floral aromas (violets and irises) with a mineral edge. Supremely approachable with finely structured fruit, spicy touches and finesse. Treat yourself.