Never mind the weather — out here in the Atlantic, there’s no predicting from day to day whether we’ll be basking in the sun or dodging the hail — but the clocks go forward an hour tonight, meaning that from tomorrow it’ll be bright until about 8pm, inspiring us to head towards lighter dishes on the dinner menu and wines that put the emphasis on freshness and light.
We understandably associate ‘freshness’ with white wines — and yes, reds have a whole dimension of depth and gravity which in many instances will predominate. But acidity and fruit flavours from the lighter end of the spectrum are shared by both red and white wine, and many red wines with relatively light texture and moderate tannin do showcase that gorgeous lightness.
One of today’s highlighted wines (below) is the product of a tradition which evolved in part of the Muscadet wine region where the Loire flows into the Atlantic. In one sub-appellation — Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, named for the two tributary rivers that bound it — winemakers add a balancing bit of oomph to the light melon de Bourgogne grape by allowing it remain cloudy and unfiltered in tanks as it rests for months after fermentation. This practice of resting the wine on its lees, the solid remnants of fermentation, imbues the finished wine with a lovely slightly grainy, oaty texture. That’s what’s meant by the ‘sur lie’ part of the name on Muscadets. The whole is a soft sort of richness, a lovely step down in pace for palates jaded by the big modern wine styles we enjoy — but which are sometimes just a little bit too much.
On Wednesday, Mar 28 from 7.45pm, The Restaurant at Donnybrook Fair on Morehampton Road in Dublin 4 is hosting a wine dinner featuring the wines of Barton & Guestier presented by brand manager Marine Legoupil. It’s €60 per person or €100 for two people. To book, phone 01-6144849 and see www.donnybrookfair.ie.
Soleado Chardonnay, 2011, Marks and Spencer, €7.99
This builds its payload of rich tropical fruit by ripening in Chile’s warm central Valley region, so winemaker Adolfo Hurtado — the man behind Cono Sur breakthrough pinot noir — leaves well enough alone by not oaking it and so allowing its alert, fruit flavours shine through.
Cimarosa Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, 2011, Lidl, €5.29
I’m as surprised as anyone to find a sauvignon blanc as good as this for a ridiculous price: Taut and firm and shot through with that fresh, springy acidity that makes the grape such a shellfish-friendly staple.
Côtes du Rhône, 2010, Aldi, €5.99
Although not lacking in dark fruit flavours, many red wines from the Rhône (and indeed Spanish tempranillos) can be essentially light-hearted — this, for instance, a fresh-faced, berried spicy number. Lidl have a similarly approachable and soft Côtes du Rhône Villages 2011 at €5.49.
Langmeil Live Wire Riesling, 2010, Curious Wines, €17.99
Now for something completely different: A German-style, rich semi-sweet, 8.5% alcohol riesling. As with any well-made wine, you won’t miss the alcohol. This is terrific by any standards and its sweetness marks it out for some menu items — such as a salad featuring blue cheese, or a spicy chicken stir fry.
Ackerman Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie, 2010, €9.99 at independents including O’Donovans
One of the world’s most notable, but often overlooked wine styles (see above), this Loire classic — with its relatively modest 12% alcohol — starts on the nose with delightful floral aromas, delivering succulent apples and pears to the palate, bedded in a lovely, rounded grainy texture.
Chablis Premier Cru, 2009, Lidl, (€13.99)
After the recent revelatory tasting of Lidl wines, I highlighted their entry level Chablis (€8.99). While that is really worth trying, the extra fiver commanded by the more upmarket ‘premier cru’ version is money well spent: rich and perhaps surprisingly creamy, fresh chardonnay.
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