Wine: A nostalgic theme

I have a nostalgic theme this week as I was reminded at recent tastings by how much our tastes have changed since I first became interested in wine.

Wine: A nostalgic theme

In 1990 you would have had difficulty finding wines from outside Europe on the average off-licence shelf.

Wine sales were dominated by big brands, most of which are completely unknown to drinkers under 30, such as Pedrotti and Piat d’Or.

Believe it or not, Piat d’Or is back on the shelves in Tesco and is now a light pleasant Pays d’Oc Merlot as opposed to a Vin de Table (a category that no longer exists in France having been replaced by Vin de France).

Blue Nun and Black Tower are still around and quite easy to find in the UK but less so here. Both are drier than they used to be but unlikely to appeal to anyone who is reading this column.

All my recommendations this week are for wines or wine styles that were considered a step above branded wine 25 years ago and are now making something of a comeback having been overshadowed by shiny new wines from Chile and Australia.

Some of the wines were tasted at a meal in the Cliff Townhouse by St Stephen’s Green, which has a new ‘Sea and the Grape’ matching menu.

The wines were all well chosen by Gavin Keogh of Wines Direct and are from family owned wineries.

My favourite match on the night was probably a chocolate fondant with chocolate mousse matched with Stefano Acccordini Recioto Valpolicella — a relatively rare red dessert wine from the Veneto made using dried grapes but prevented from fermenting to full dryness so that it retains a sweet cherry and black fruit flavour perfect for matching chocolate.

For the diary

November 12, 6pm-9pm: O’Briens Cork Wine Fair. Tickets (€15) are limited. Drop into the shop in Douglas or visit:

November 2-8: Rhone Wine Week and International Sherry Week both begin on Monday next. Check out . For Sherry, head to If that is too much rouble check with your local wine bar or wine specialist venue (e.g., Stanleys, Ely, One Pery Place, Ballymaloe House).

Best value under €15

Domaine de la Louvetrie Muscadet de Sevre et Maine, Loire, France — €15.45

Stockists: Wines Direct Mullingar and Arnotts Dublin,

Please forgive the extra few cents, this is worth it. Made from biodynamically grown grapes, south of Nantes, this is also vegan-friendly should you need such a thing. Pristine, citrus-driven and slightly salty aromas and lingering elegant pear and apple flavours. This is a far cry from the 1980s Muscadet of memory.

Zenato Valpolicella, Veneto, Italy — €14.99

Stockist: O’Donovans Off-Licence Cork

Valpolicella is another of those wines we all drank too much of in the 1980s. The rather lacklustre wines that were imported in those days rarely tasted of cherries like we were promised, unlike this beauty which is packed with morello and black cherry aromas and big dollops of sweet plum fruit. On special offer in O’Donovans until the end of the Rugby World Cup.

Domaine de Ménard Cuvée Marine, Cotes de Gascogne, France — €12.50

Stockist: Le Caveau Kilkenny, Baggot Street Wines

Vin de Pays de Cotes de Gascogne was all the rage in the early 1990s and it is still worth trying (the vin de pays bit is dropped these days). This is a blend of 60% Colombard with Sauvignon Blanc and Gros Manseng making up the remainder — floral aromas mixed with white peaches and citrus, zingy and fresh.

Best value over €15

Guerinda La Blanca Chardonnay, Navarra, Spain — €17.50

Stockists: Wines Direct Mullingar and Arnotts Dublin,

This typifies the kind of wines found in Wines Direct’s list — made in a remote part of Navarre by two sisters (and a husband), from vines grown up a mountain. If you haven’t had a chardonnay in a while I recommend this one — pears, peaches and lilies on the nose, complex and supple on the palate with a lovely nervy dry finish.

Domaine Nicolas Maillet Pouilly Fuissé, Burgundy, France — €35.00

Stockists: Wines Direct Mullingar and Arnotts Dublin,

Yes, a second Chardonnay recommendation and from its birthplace, Burgundy. This is also on the rich side with vanilla and floral notes and a complex textured palate giving way to a stone-washed dry finish. I last drank this with some turbot in a parsley/caper sauce with vanilla butter in the Cliff Townhouse and it matched the dish perfectly.

Tahbilk Marsanne, Victoria, Australia — €16.50

Stockists: Wines Direct Mullingar and Arnotts Dublin,

Tahbilk is an old favourite and was one of the first exciting Australian wines I tasted that wasn’t Chardonnay. Marsanne is a northern Rhone grape known for its honey aromas and soft palate and in some ways Tahbilk’s version outshines many of the French examples due to its tautness on the palate and lingering subtle almond and apple syrup flavours.

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