Some unusual wines to try out for this week

Ireland was always very brand-conscious up until recently and it took the arrival of the German discounters and the recession to shake us up a little.

In wine terms we are still quite conservative and stick to what we know but this week I want to encourage you to embrace the new.

None of the wines recommended below are from grapes that are familiar to the average wine drinker, but all should be. 

Portugal is the perfect place to challenge your wine-buying conventions as under 10% of the grapes they grow are international varieties. 

Most of Spain’s wines are made from tempranillo and garnacha but if you look a little harder you will find lots of unusual wines to try such as the ones below.

While I am still charmed by albarino and the peach-scented but dry wines of Rias Baixas (and the alvarinos of northern Portugal) I have another love in this part of the world — godello. 

Godello is fragrant in the way that good semillon or chardonnay can be, but is also fresh, dry and characterful. 

The grape is found throughout green Spain and is excellent in Bierzo, Ribeira Sacra, Monterrei and Valdeorra but good ones can also sometimes be found elsewhere.

Celebrity wine producers such as Rafael Palacios have helped its profile but is still relatively difficult to find in the average wine shop (and almost impossible to find in the supermarkets).

Mencia is the classic native red grape of north-west Spain but is virtually unknown outside its native Bierzo. 

The grape almost always has a scent of violets and lively ripe fruit, blackberry and cherries, and sometimes with a forest-floor edge. 

There have been attempts to ‘posh it up’ by fermenting in oak but this is not always successful as the fruit doesn’t need improving.

Stick with middle-ground wines between €12 and €20 and you will get plenty of bang for your buck, and fruit for your florins.

The ‘natural’ wine below is made with malvasia di candia, trebbiano and ortugo but the grapes are not the point here as the skin contact removes much of the varietal character. 

If you only try one orange wine in your life it should be this one as it is excellent.

BEST VALUE UNDER €15

Jardim de Estrella Tinto 2014, Dão, Portugal — €12.95

Some unusual wines to try out for this week

JJ O Driscolls Cork, O Learys Cootehill, Hole in The Wall Wine Dublin 7, Quintessential Wines, Drogheda; www.quintessentialwines.ie 

Dão is a mountainous region in central Portugal named after the Dão river. Dão wines are not as common in Ireland, for some reason, but this blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) and Alfrocheiro is worth seeking out for its ripe juicy fruit aromas and dense blackberry flavours.

Jardim de Estrella Branco 2014, Dão, Portugal — €12.95

Some unusual wines to try out for this week

JJ O Driscolls Cork, O Learys Cootehill, Hole in The Wall Wine Dublin 7, Quintessential Wines, Drogheda; www.quintessentialwines.ie 

A blend of Malvasia Fina and Encruzado, the former commonly used to make lighter styles of Madeira and the latter the most common white grape of Dão and arguably the finest of Portugal’s indigenous grapes. This has enticing tropical and citrus aromas with refreshing apple acidity.

Honoro Vera Monastrell 2014, Jumilla, Spain — €14.95

Some unusual wines to try out for this week

JJ O Driscolls Cork, O Learys Cootehill, Hole in The Wall Wine Dublin 7, Quintessential Wines, Drogheda www.quintessentialwines.ie 

Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre) is the classic grape of south-eastern Spain where it produces dense blackcurrant fruit flavours mixed with touches of tar and game. This has lots of concentrated fruit with solid tannins and a touch of chocolate on the finish. Best for steak dinners and casseroles.

BEST VALUE OVER €15

La Stoppa ‘Ageno’ 2010, Emilia Bianco IGT, Italy — €31.99

Some unusual wines to try out for this week

Stockists: Bradleys, Le Caveau, Green Man Wines Terenure, l’Atitude 51 Winebar

One more natural wine recommendation for ‘Real Wine Month’. You won’t get more natural than this orange wine fermented on its skins for 30 days with natural yeasts. Bruised pear aromas, tannic and peachy on the palate with orange rind and grapefruit hints. Probably best with food.

Brezo de Gregory Perez, Bierzo, Spain — €16.95

Some unusual wines to try out for this week

Stockists: JJ O Driscolls, Sheridans sheridanscheesemongers.com, Quintessential Wines, Drogheda; www.quintessentialwines.ie 

Currently this wine has two importers, a situation that may not continue as both believed they had it exclusively. Godello is the other classic white grape of north west Spain (after Albarino) and this has ripe fragrant floral, apple, peaches with lingering apple fruit with a distinct hit of pineapple.

Brezo de Gregory Perez, Bierzo, Spain — €16.95

Some unusual wines to try out for this week

Stockists: JJ O Driscolls, Sheridans www.sheridanscheesemongers.com  Quintessential Wines, Drogheda; www.quintessentialwines.ie 

I recommended a Mencía a couple of weeks ago but I can’t get enough of this charming grape variety. This has red pastille fruit aromas, fruity and rich but with an elegant lightness of touch and lingering flavourful red and black fruits. Try with cold meats, Manchego cheese or with any meat dish.


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