My contribution to the Litfest Local Hero theme is the monastrell grape

Just a few weeks to go to the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Litfest of Food and Wine (to give it the full title) on May 20–22.

My contribution to the Litfest Local Hero theme is the monastrell grape

As originally conceived this was to be a bi-annual event but such was the enthusiasm it has run every year since the first festival in 2013.

The chefs and food writers get most of the publicity but there is always a lively drinks element which ties in neatly with fine quality beers, spirits and wines available in the big shed including natural wines, organic ciders and so on.

Once again the Drinks Theatre is operating from the Tractor Shed (yes, the shed where the tractors are usually stored!) and two of the stars are Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson who collaborate on the World Atlas of Wine every few years and are probably the two best known wine writers in the world.

Jancis is focusing on under-priced wines, a regular theme of this column and other highlights include the hugely entertaining spirits writer Dave Broom on gin, perhaps the trendiest drink in the world right now.

Susan Boyle’s wine geese interactive theatre show has appeared before at Litfest but this year she has turned her attention to beer in collaboration with her beer sommelier sister – A Tale of Ale is on Saturday at 8.30pm.

One theme this year is Local Hero and my contribution will be the local hero of Valencia and Alicante which is undoubtedly the monastrell grape — a grape that originates there but has gone on to further fame in Provence, McLaren Vale and to a lesser degree in regions such as California.

I will write a bit more about monastrell closer to the event and I have recommended just one inexpensive teaser monastrell below.

A number of events are already sold out but there are still tickets available for my event and a few others.

As always at Litfest there is a generosity of spirit at large and even if you don’t book an event there will be lots to taste and try, so I do urge you to keep the dates free.

For the Diary: Hayfield Manor South African Wine Evening with Rustenberg Wines May 12; 021 4845900.


Domino de Punctum, La Mancha, Spain — €13.49

Stockists: O’Donovans Cork, Little Green Grocer Kilkenny, Organico Bantry,

Domino de Punctum is a 200 hectare vineyard in the northern part of La Mancha south-east of Madrid. The wines are organic and Demeter-certified biodynamic.

Aromas of vanilla and red fruit mixed with spice with touches of violets, plums and blackberries and a solid fruit-driven finish.

Las Renas Monastrell, Bullas, Spain — €12.45

Stockist: Karwigs Carrigaline,

Bullas is Murcia in south-east Spain where the main grape is monastrell, or mourvèdre as it is better known in the Rhone and Provence, a grape I will be exploring in detail at Ballymaloe LitFest.

This is a ripe solid wine with juicy fruit flavours — particularly plums, blackcurrants and a touch of tar — good value and perfect for barbecue food.

Viento Aliseo Viognier, Castilla, Spain — €13.95

Stockist: O’Donovans Cork, Little Green Grocer Kilkenny, Organico Bantry,

Growing grapes bio-dynamically is not cheap so for this producer to be just so affordable and produce such quality is a considerable achievement.

This is a fragrant, peaches and apricot-scented viognier with a solid mouth-feel and a dry lemon-peel fresh finish.


Domaine des Clos Godeaux Chinon 2014, Loire, France — €17.95

Stockists: Searsons Wines  La Touche Greystones, Baggot St. Wines

I’ve long been a fan of cabernet franc (the mother grape of cabernet sauvignon) as I like its red fruits and freshness.

In the Loire sometimes it can be a little green so be careful to buy from good producers only. This is almost floral scented and also has classic red fruits.

Marco Real Garnacha 2014, Navarre, Spain —€15.99

Stockists: JJ O’Driscolls, Karwigs Carrigaline

Made from 100% Garnacha and aged for five months in French oak barrels this charming Navarre wine is a good example of why I find Spain so reliable.

Floral violet touches on the nose, Spicy red fruits, ripe and soft, fleshy and tasty. Try with some slow-roasted pork belly or with smoky barbecue-flavoured meats.

Muscadet de Sévre et Maine sur Lie ‘Le Pedrix de l’Année’, Loire, France — €15.50

Stockists: Searsons, Lettercollum Kitchen Project Clonakilty, La Touche, World Wide Wines. Imported by Simon Tyrrell who comments “this is what people actually want when they order sauvignon blanc!”.

And it is true that this has far more character than many a sauvignon blanc — floral and fragrant with ripe pear and apple fruits and a dry clean finish.

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