Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile 2009




CHRISTMAS is almost upon us and this week I want to give some advice on presents for wine lovers.

There are dozens of accessories and gadgets out there and my first piece of advice is to avoid anything that promises to improve or age a wine by magnetic forces (yes, these exist) or by some magic pouring mechanism.

Bottle stoppers (especially for fizzy wine) are occasionally useful, but I recommend you stick to the tried and trusted as no wine enthusiast can have enough corkscrews, wine books, or bottles of wine.

There are two corkscrews I recommend to the exclusion of all others: the Waiter’s Friend style and anything made by Screwpull. If you are unfamiliar with these types just ask in any decent wine shop or do a quick search online.

Brown Thomas is a good source for both as is any larger wine shop. Stay away from the rip-off versions of the Rabbit Ears/Screwpull Lever corkscrews as they usually break within 2-3 uses.

For books, anything by Jancis Robinson or Hugh Johnson is reliable and readable and you could also look for names such as Oz Clarke and of course Robert Parker, the infamous and influential US wine critic.

Robinson’s Oxford Companion to Wine or World Atlas of Wine are excellent choices, but the ultimate wine nerd gift this Christmas is Robinson’s just-published Wine Grapes which costs around €150. This covers almost 1,400 grape varieties, and is the most comprehensive book yet written on the subject utilising DNA analysis and placing the grapes in their historical and viticultural context. Finally, on books I should mention the annual Hugh Johnson Pocket Wine Book (€14) which is indispensable and a book that everyone with even a vague interest in wine should own.

If you are choosing wine try to find out what the person likes, get advice from an Independent wine merchant or better still buy a voucher. Below are some wines I would be delighted to receive for Christmas.

BEST VALUE UNDER €10

Michel Torino Torrontes, Argentina €10.50

Stockists: Matsons Bandon, Cronins Costcutter Ballylickey, Stacks Listowel, Brennans Kilkenny, Early-til-Late Tyrrellspass, The Gate Shop Dublin 2, Stewarts Wines, Dublin 11

Slightly over a tenner but well worth the extra 50c to try Argentina’s best white grape variety. Ripe fragrant aromas of jasmine and honeysuckle with touches of stewed apple and pears and a dry finish.

Solonio Il Grottone Rosso 2009, Lazio, Italy €9.99

Stockists: Curious Wines Cork, Red Nose Wines Clonmel

Cabernet Sauv./Syrah blend from just south of Rome that normally sells for €13. Aromas of cherries and plums and a hint of tar with more cherries on the palate mixed with a touch of raisins on the finish.

Giacondi Nero d’Avola, Sicily 2011 €6.49

Stockist: O’Briens Douglas

Rare to find a wine this cheap that would make an acceptable Christmas present, but I really liked the raisin and dried fruit flavours in this wine.

BEST VALUE UNDER €20

Louis d’Or Champagne NV €20

Stockist: Superquinn

This has been significantly reduced in price for Christmas. Pear and Citrus aromas with a nice fine mousse with soft creamy pear and lemon flavours. Delicious stuff.

Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile 2009 — €19.99

Montes Alpha Cab. Sauv. was one of my favourite wines a decade ago and for some reason I foolishly neglected it the past few years. Deep dark blackcurrant aromas mixed with a little spice and vanilla and complex black fruits on the palate. One to drink now with steak or keep for a few years.

The Wise One Grand Tawny, Bleasdale Wines, Australia €16.99

Stockists: Curious Wines Cork, Red Nose Wines Clonmel

An Aussie Tawny fortified (port-style) wine that has spent an average of 10 years in small oak casks. Aromas of figs and marzipan with a lovely flavour of almonds and dried figs with hints of cinnamon and chocolate.


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