Still another full week of January to go but I recommend you cheer yourself up by checking out the line-up for the Ballymaloe Litfest which has just been announced.
Now in its third year, Litfest has already become known as the Electric Picnic (or should that be Glastonbury?) of the Food and Wine world.
The Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine, to give it its full title, runs from the May 15 to 17, and this year the event has been streamlined a little so you won’t miss quite so many events.
While food is a slightly larger focus as usual (including global stars such as Alice Waters) there is a hugely impressive drink writers line-up.
The first bit of good news is that Jancis Robinson MW is back talking about lighter and fresher wines. Jancis is arguably the world’s most influential wine writer and I would book her talk first as it is guaranteed to be sold out.
US-based wine writer Alice Feiring has strong views on most things and her sessions are bound to be some of the most lively events at the festival. One I will definitely be attending is entitled “The Dangers of Natural Wine — They Could Change Your Life”.
Spirits expert Dave Broom is back as are mixologists Nick Strangeway and Oisín Davis and the brewmaster at the hugely influential Brooklyn Brewery (and editor of the Oxford Companion to Beer) Garret Oliver will be giving two talks.
All the Irish drinks writers will be hosting events including Raymond Blake (on Burgundy), Mary Dowey (on Champagne and her Rhone Romance) plus Tomás Clancy, John Wilson, and myself.
I will be talking about emerging wine regions and I hope to feature some wines most people will have never tasted but which I think deserve to be better known.
For example I will likely include a couple of Grandes Pagos de España (GPE) wines — an association for the highest quality Single Estate wines from Spain.
For a look at the full programme log on to www.litfest.ie
BEST VALUE UNDER €15
Laurent Miquel Syrah, Languedoc, France — €9.00 (was €11.49)
Stockist: Dunnes Stores
Laurent Miquel wines are eminently reliable and are on special offer in Dunnes Stores for the next few weeks. The Syrah has fine, black fruits with touches of chocolate and tar. I also recommend the light, fresh Rosé (especially with a curry) and the Viognier for a weighty, cold-weather white.
¡Poco a Poco! Tempranillo, Castilla Y Leon, Spain — €8.50 (was €12)
Stockist Dunnes Stores
Castilla y Leon is one of those Spanish regions that just keeps producing great wines at tiny prices. This has lots of bright, red-and-black fruit flavours and is the opposite of how wines from Spain used to taste 20 years ago. Try with pizza or spicy food.
Cave de Lugny Macon Villages, Burgundy, France — €12.99 (was €15.49)
From one of the largest co-ops in France, in the most southerly part of Burgundy. Un-oaked, but full-flavoured, with lots of sweet apple and pear aromas and good, clean acidity. I drank this with some fried fish, but I also recommend it for creamy pasta dishes.
BEST VALUE OVER €15
Chateau Musar, Hochar Pére et Fils 2008, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon €17.49
Stockists: O’Briens, Ardkeen, Next Door, O’Sullivans, Tralee, Eugenes, Kenmare, McHughs.
Last week I profiled Chateau Musar following the death of their influential winemaker but had no recent notes on their “second wine” so I held it over for a week. Made from a single 50-year-old vineyard this has similar red fruit and leather flavours to the Grand Vin but with a more silky texture.
Ortas Prestige Rasteau 2010, Rhone, France — €18.49
January is probably not the time to be drinking Chateauneuf-du-Pape but the village of Rasteau is only a few miles up the road and can provide just as much pleasure. Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre from some very old vines with rich spicy chocolate and blackcurrant flavours.
Domaine du Tariquet Les Premières Grives — €16.99-€17.99
Stockists: JJ O’Driscolls, Ballinlough; Next Door, Youghal, Stacks, Listowel, The Vanilla Grape, Kenmare; Wicklow Arms; Redmonds, Ranelagh; Deveneys, Dundrum; Corkscrew D2.
This is a demi-sec wine from Gascony that I consider a treat — the kind of wine to cheer up a rainy January day. Mellow tropical fruit flavours with touches of pineapple honey. Try with an apple tart or rich cheeses.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved