Weekend Wine

Firstly, this week I want to thank those readers who came to our Californian Wine Evening in Meades 126 Wine Bar on Cork’s Oliver Plunkett Street last month. 

Weekend Wine

It was a fun evening and showed how drinkable and enjoyable Californian wines can be, whether served with food or without.

The only complaint on the night was that one or two people found the wines a little rich in sweet fruit and it is true California never has trouble ripening their grapes (unlike many parts of Europe).

Ripe sweet fruit is always better than unripe green fruit and I tend to drink Californian reds with spicy food which definitely helps cut through any sweetness. California does get cool temperatures near the coast (from the cool Pacific currents— think of the fog in San Francisco) but they get very little rain in the Autumn, so grapes can hang a long time to develop as much sugar as the winemaker desires and the American palate definitely prefers a rich style.

My favourite wine on the night was the Byron Pinot Noir (see below) but I think the stars for most people was the Zinfandels I mentioned a couple of weeks back— Predator, Joel Gott and Liberty School. Top tip: If you want to buy from California then you will almost never go wrong with a red Zinfandel. Recommendations below are a couple of Californians plus some wines I have been waiting to mention but never found a slot for them until this week.

For the Diary:

Wine Tasting and Dinner with John Wilson to mark the launch of “Wilson on Wine” Thursday, November 13, Ballymaloe House.

Tasting: €15; dinner: €65 (different wines at each event). Tel: 021 4652531, Email: Colm@Ballymaloe.ie.

How To Taste Wine in Two Hours: Saturday, November 22 and 29, Hilton, Kilmainham, Dublin. Wine educator Kevin Ecock was my first teacher and his classes are recommended. www.kevinecock.ie . email: kevin@kevinecock.ie

BEST VALUE UNDER €15

Boland Cellar Five Climates Sauvignon Blanc - €14.99

Stockists: O’Donovans, No. 21, Galvins, Next Door, Independent Off-Licences

This is one of the cleanest and freshest tasting Sauvignons I have had this year with lots of grapefruit and spiky citrus fruit and a pristine crisp finish.

Protocolo Tinto, Castilla y Leon, Spain - €10.49

Stockists: O’Briens Off-Licences

I’m surprised I haven’t mentioned this wine before but I have had a few bottles over the last 18 months and it is always reliable and great value. I think you will like the concentrated fruit flavours, good acidity and balanced flavours. Perfect for Friday night Pizza.

Cantina di Monteforte Soave, Veneto, Italy - €14.99

Stockists: O’Donovans, No. 21, Galvins, Next Door, Independent Off-Licences

Thankfully the days of utterly tasteless Soave seem to be gone for good (at least among the ones being imported to Ireland). This won a gold medal at the NOffLA awards recently for best old-world white under €15.

BEST VALUE OVER €15

Domaine de Fondrèche, Ventoux, “Nadal” 2010, France - €23.95

Stockists: Jus de Vine, 64 Wines Glasthule, Donnybrook Fair.

Rhone Wine Week ends today and this fine producer is based in Ventoux - a slightly higher and cooler part of the Southern Rhone.

This is Syrah (45%), Grenache (45%) and Mourvèdre (10%) with soft, ripe blackberry, blackcurrant, and spicy fruit flavours with good acidity and freshness. Perfect for stews and casseroles.

Rhiannon 2012, California, €22.99

Stockists: No. 21 Midleton, Matsons Grange and Bandon, Baggot St. Wines, The Corkscrew, The Parting Glass

This we tasted at Meades Californian Evening in October — Rhiannon is named for the Celtic Goddess associated with magic birds and horses and is a blend of Petite Sirah (44%), Syrah (42%) and Barbera (14%) with admirable smoky rich fruit and lingering spice and liquorice.

Byron Santa Barbera Pinot Noir, California - €25.49

Stockists: O’Briens Off-Licences Nationwide

This was my favourite wine on our California tasting and is one of the very few Pinot Noirs from cool climate Santa Barbara County available in Ireland. This is Sideways country and very similar to the wines enjoyed by Myles and Jack – richly fragrant with herbs and red fruit, balanced and supple with lingering fruit and earthy touches.

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