Wine with Leslie: Wine from the year my son was born — he'll get some when he moves out

— and Rioja that works well with paella
Wine with Leslie: Wine from the year my son was born — he'll get some when he moves out

These wines work well with paella

A recent conversation with my 20 year old son about his taste in wine got me thinking about my own childhood. He likes the good stuff of course, mainly because he has had the chance to taste it. In particular he likes aged Bordeaux but also Rioja and Australian Shiraz but is open to most styles of wine thankfully. His friends have little interest he tells me but they do look to him to find the best wines under a tenner. I’m told that recommendations from this newspaper are also taken into consideration should retailers be so kind as to quote me!

He was fortunate to born in the year 2000, a year with warm summers all over Europe which allowed for a particularly good vintage in Bordeaux. I laid down some Vintage Port and a few cases of Cru Classé Bordeaux and while we have dipped in on special occasions (it’s delicious), two thirds of what I bought remains. Although I’ve been vague in my promises he will get some of it for himself if he can ever afford to move out.

I would have laid down Rioja which can also last for decades but the summer was just too hot that year and many vines baked in the sun and lost their leaves. Next came rain in late September at harvest time which led to rather dilute wines and a massive crop. It was not a vintage for keeping.

I did not grow up in a wine drinking household (few did in Ireland in the 1970’s) but if we ever did have visitors coming who liked red wine it was usually Faustino 1 that my dad served. Faustino 1 is using the same rather kitsch but recognisable bottle as they did back then it ages much better than you might expect. I’ve tasted a few vintages of Faustino 1 from the 1960s and they have generally been enchanting and taste far better than most Bordeaux from the same decade. Last year a friend gave me a 1964 vintage which worked brilliantly with a traditional paella Valenciana (chicken based as rabbits were out of season that month).

Recommendations this week are from Rioja and from Rueda, arguably Spain’s most famous red and white wine regions. Both work with paella and the Riojas will age a bit if you like the spice and raisin character of old wines but remember that Rioja is one of the few wine regions in the world which positively encourages producers to age their best wine prior to release.

Wine Under €15

Faustino Art Collection Garnacha Rosé 2019, Rioja - €15.00

Stockist: Dunnes Stores

Three new iterations of Faustino arrived in shops late last year but I only got around to tasting them recently. The Rosé Garnacha pours a very pale pink colour (what the French would call ‘gris’) with pleasing floral notes mixed with clean red fruits. There’s also a light straightforward Chardonnay and a riper Crianza Red (also in Dunnes) which has bright red fruit and lots of vanilla-scented American oak accents.

Monte Real Reserva Rioja, Spain - €12.95

Stockist: O’Briens

From a winery founded in the 1890 this is part of the O’Briens Spring wine sale which ends tomorrow. Always good value, this is proper old school Reserva Rioja with lots of spice and characterful mature fruits and normally costs closer to €20. Classic sweet vanilla and red fruit aromas combined with spice and savoury mature fruits, complex on the palate with good length.

Botas de Barro Verdejo, Rueda, Spain - €13.50

Stockist: Dunnes Stores Nationwide

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this wine before so it’s about time. Verdejo from Rueda is Spain’s best selling white wine but here it is often overshadowed by (equally tasty) Albariño. This has aromas of white flowers mixed with stony citrus and crisp green apple - lemon and lime on the palate, zingy and fresh with that characteristic bitter lemon twist and touch of minerality on the finish.

Wine Over €15

Bodegas Akutain Crianza 2016, Rioja, Spain - €21.99

Stockists: Mannings, A Taste of Spain, Redmonds, Blackrock Cellar, Martins, Margadh Howth, Listons.

Family owned estate with 40 years experience from the classic Rioja sub-region of Rioja Alta around Haro. Wines are exclusively from grapes they grow themselves and they practice minimal intervention and sustainability. Aromas of mature red fruits with some toasty notes from 15 months barrel ageing, concentrated and pure with lovely vibrancy and focused fruit flavours and good length. Worth seeking out.

Cune Gran Reserva Rioja 2013, Spain - €16.50

Stockist: Dunnes Stores Nationwide

This is only on special offer for a few more days so make sure to get to a Dunnes by Monday or Tuesday. Cune is always reliable and this has lots of soft red and black fruits with touches of allspice and cinnamon. Creamy mature fruits on the palate with a touch of fresh tobacco and spice and crunchy lingering darker fruits on the finish.

Conde Valdemar Reserva Rioja 2012, Spain - €19.95

Stockists: Independent NOffLA Off-Licences nationwide O’Donovans, Galvins, World Wide Wines, Vintry, McHughs, Londis Shiels.

This was a winner in the NOffLA Gold Star Awards last year and it is easy to see why. Packed with ripe black cherry fruits with touches of cedar and vanilla from oak ageing this packs more complexity than many a Gran Reserva. Silky ripe plum and blackberry fruits on the palate with more spice touches and fine length.

Beer of the Week

Dublin City Brewing Patriot Pale Ale, 5.5% ABV, 440ml - €3.29

Stockists: Spar, Supervalu and Independents in Dublin, and via

Dublin City Brewing opened in January 2021 in the Chocolate Factory on Parnell St. Dublin and during lockdown have organised a Beer Tasting Club with sell-out so events. On 29th April BBQ chef supreme Andy Noonan will join them on zoom. Tickets incl. beer delivery, branded glass & bbq rubs costs €20 via

The Pioneer Pilsner is arguably the closest an Irish brewer has gotten to a good Czech Pilsner, fruit-tinged noble hops and all. The Pale Ale however was probably my favourite - red gold colour with rich aromas of malt and red fruits and a good kick of hops from Cascade and Hallertau.

More in this section


The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

Sign up