Wines to raise a glass to during the Rugby World Cup

I’m a little late focusing on the Rugby World Cup, but with the final group matches this weekend there will be a lot of tension around and you may need a glass of wine to calm your nerves.

The “Irish” wine recommended is particularly soothing.

Rugby and wine do seem to go together and I have had many rugby conversations with winemakers from just about everywhere (except perhaps Chile and the US).

Many former rugby players are involved in winemaking such as the former French International Gérard Bertrand whose wines are imported by O’Briens. 

Bertrand has a huge range mainly from the Languedoc and Roussillon regions.

Sam Neill is almost as famous for his love of rugby and wine as his acting and his Two Paddocks range can be found in Curious Wines in Cork and Naas, Co Kildare.

Wolf Blass sponsor Leinster these days which seems a good match — big bruising (though very tasty) wines that bludgeon you into submission. 

Munster might prefer a wine sponsor with equal power but a bit more finesse — Domaine de la Romanée Conti perhaps or maybe the classic iron fist in the velvet glove — Barolo.

Many of the wines below are from O’Donovans Off-Licence group which is running a Rugby World Cup promotion. 

There is a wine to represent most of the competing nations though nothing from Canada or Romania. 

If you want a Romanian wine the Umbrele Romanian range is inexpensive and tasty at Independent Off-Licences.

I’m pleased to report that Gary O’Donovan’s choices for the promotion all hit their mark with current or classic vintages ( 2009 for his Bordeaux Wine Geese suggestion), and all the wines show well.

I’ve added in Predator California Zinfandel for any beleaguered USA supporters plus a Chablis from the great Chablisienne co-operative, probably the most lauded in France.


Zenato Colombara Soave Classico 2014, Veneto, Italy — €14.99 (was €18)

Wines to raise a glass to during the Rugby World Cup

Stockist: O’Donovans Off-Licence Cork

Wine drinkers over 40 often dismiss soave as they drank too many dilute characterless versions in the 80s and 90s. 

This elegant soave from Zenato however, has lovely pear, almond and tropical aromas that follow through onto the palate along with a light spice character and decent acidity. This is a great price from O’Donovans as Zenato is a top tier producer.

Chateau de la Ligne Bordeaux Supérieur 2009, France — €13.99 (was €17)

Stockist: O’Donovans Off-Licence Cork

This wine represents Ireland in the O’Donovans World Cup promotion as it is owned by Irishman Terry Cross who purchased the estate on St Patricks Day 2000. 

I’ve praised 2009 before and as expected this has good fleshy fruit flavours, elegance and lingering plum and damson fruits. If there is a better Bordeaux Supérieur around under €15 then I’ve not tasted it.

Stonewalker Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, South Africa — €9.99 (was €13)

Stockist: O’Donovans Off-Licence Cork

All the Stonewalker range are at the excellent price of €9.99 including their chenin, sauvignon blanc and shiraz. 

The cabernet is firm and fruity with lots of blackcurrant flavours but given its youth it will show best with a decent steak — meat juices and tannic cabernet being an almost perfect food match.


Peter Yealands Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand — €17.99 (was €21)

Wines to raise a glass to during the Rugby World Cup

Stockist: O’Donovans Off-Licence Cork

I mentioned the Peter Yealands Sauvignon back in April and I was pleased to see that his Pinot Noir is equally classical in style. 

Bright cherry and raspberry aromas, textured fruit with a hint of spice, this is characterful and elegant without any of the confected flavours that you sometimes find in New World Pinot.

La Chablisienne Chablis “La Pierrelée”, Burgundy, France — €19.99

Stockists:  JJ O’Driscolls, Ardkeen Stores, 1601 Kinsale, Shannon Nights Clare, McHughs, The Vintry

Strictly speaking I should have a wine from France’s rugby country which is the South West but I’ve talked to a few Burgundians about rugby in the past so that’s good enough for me. 

This is benchmark Chablis — soft fragrant stony fruit aromas, apples and limes and lingering nervy freshness. Delicious.

Predator Old Vine Zinfandel 2012, Lodi, California — €21.99

Stockists: Matsons Bandon, No 21 Midleton, Stacks Listowel, Ardkeen Stores, The Parting Glass, Baggot St. Wines

My USA pick is probably my favourite Zinfandel on the Irish market below €30 (look for Seghesio or Ridge if you are feeling flush). 

The name comes from the predator ladybirds used instead of pesticides in the vineyard. Rich coffee and spice aromas with dark spicy black fruit on the palate — barbecue?


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