Alcohol levels of this week’s wines are all 13% or above

Despite all the words this page has expended on a myriad of wines, the reason we are interested is because they all have one thing in common — “the power to banish care”.

This quotation is from the great Hugh Johnson who will be appearing at the Ballymaloe LitFest on May 21.

It is almost considered impolite to talk about alcohol in wine but it is a crucial contributing factor to texture and flavour. 

De-alcoholised wines are undrinkable in my experience as removing the alcohol drastically affects the mouth-feel and the taste. 

I’d rather drink water or even Coca Cola.

Recently I have begun including the percentage of alcohol by volume in the recommended wines as since the 1990s alcohol levels on the average bottle have increased noticeably.

I am often asked to suggest wines with lower alcohol levels, particularly as levels of 14.5% and higher are now commonplace.

One reason is that we are drinking more from the new world which tends to produce wines with higher alcohol as their grapes ripen easier (the more sugar in a grape the higher the alcohol). 

However, all wines have increased their alcohol by volume in recent years due to global warming, improved vine husbandry and cellar techniques, and a fashion among winemakers to harvest only very ripe grapes.

Wines with high alcohol can taste overly sweet but this depends on the winemaker and I have had many an elegant Aussie shiraz, Californian cabernet or chateauneuf-du-pape at 15% alcohol by volume. 

Ultimately it is all about balance and the skill of the winemaker so don’t get hung up on percentages, but do bear in mind that the calories in wine are from the alcohol. 

Selections this week include a couple of wines from Dunnes Stores spring sale and some Spanish wines not unlike the ones I will be presenting during Spanish Wine Week.

Spanish Wine Week begins on April 11 and I will be hosting an evening on Mediterranean wines in L’Atitude 51 in Cork on April 13 and the day after I will be in Sheridans Wine Bar in Galway with wines from Rioja and the north west.

For more info on tastings visit: https://goo.gl/HbEkF7 

BEST VALUE UNDER €15

Narbo Martius 2015 Coteaux de Narbonne 13% abv, France — €10

Stockist: Dunnes Stores

Alcohol levels of this week’s wines are all 13% or above

An unusual blend of Chardonnay, Viognier and Sauvignon from Gérard Bertrand who seems to have an endless supply of inexpensive wines from this part of France.

Intensely fragrant with tropical and exotic fruit aromas but on the palate just enough acidity kicks in from the Sauvignon. Suitable as an aperitif or with a big pot of mussels and clams.

Clacson Grenache Syrah Mourvedre 13.5% abv, Languedoc, France — €10

Stockist:  Dunnes Stores

Alcohol levels of this week’s wines are all 13% or above

Produced by Laurent Miquel which has an Irish connection as the marketing manager and winemaker’s wife is Irish.

This classic combination of grapes is used everywhere from McLaren Vale to Chateauneuf-du-Pape – bright red fruit aromas, pungent and fresh on the palate with touches of cloves underlying the fruit. Try with spicy food.

La Vieja Bodega 2015, Syrah Monastrell 13% abv, Spain - €9

Stockist:  Dunnes Stores

Alcohol levels of this week’s wines are all 13% or above

Monastrell is also known as Mourvedre and is commonly found in Rhone wines as well as in Provence where its main pairing partners are Garnacha/Grenache and Syrah.

It is not an easy grape to ripen so it does work best in its native Valencia. Bright fruit character packed with juicy ripe fruits – plums, black cherry and soft juicy fruit flavours.

BEST VALUE OVER €15

Closs du Roi Chateauneuf-du-Pape, 13% abv, Rhone, France — €32

Stockist: Dunnes Stores

Alcohol levels of this week’s wines are all 13% or above

White wines are important to Chateauneuf-du-Pape despite representing just 5% of total production.

Most whites are predominantly Grenache Blanc so this is unusual in being made from Roussanne and Clairette.

Citrus and white flower aromas with touches of galia melon and apple, soft white peach and ripe pears on the palate, complex and satisfying.

Quinta do Buble Terra do Lobo Godello, Monterrei 13% abv, Spain — €15.99

Stockists: Mitchell & Son, Vintry Rathgar, Celtic Whiskey Shop www.celticwhiskeyshop.com

Alcohol levels of this week’s wines are all 13% or above

Another grape from Galicia is Godello from Valdeorras and Monterrei in particular.

Godello has a similar weight and fragrant character but tends to be drier than Albarño — this has beguiling sweet apple and floral aromas with citrus and apple-freshness on the palate.

San Esteban La Perra Gorda, Castilla Y León 13.5% abv, Spain — €15.99

Stockists: Green Man Wines Terenure, Whelehan’s Wines D18, World Wide Wines, Max’s Kinsale, Baggot St. Wines.

Alcohol levels of this week’s wines are all 13% or above

Mencia is another grape from the North West of Spain that you need to know about. Mainly grown in Bierzo it is packed with violet scented fruits.

This is from an organic vineyard and has a rich dark purple colour, aromas of red fruit and violets, fruity and weighty. Try with a chorizo based paella.


Lifestyle

Beauty experimentation has to start somewhere, and for many of us it’s with the same high street products and trendy looks.From the 70s to the 00s, these were the beauty products that defined your teenage years

Bestselling novelist Jojo Moyes talks about the books she grew up with, what she’s reading now, and the literature gaps she wants to fill.Jojo Moyes: My life in books

This week's food news with Joe McNammee.The Menu: Quick nibbles; International Women's Day; The People's Choice

With spring around the corner, it’s the perfect time to treat your home to a detox. Gabrielle Fagan taps up the Topology design gurus for tips.How to make your home calmer and less cluttered in 7 simple steps

More From The Irish Examiner