This weekend I will be at Ballymaloe House near Midleton for the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine.
Please come along — even if you don’t attend any of the talks, there is lots to see and do for free at the fringe events.
The big shed will have craft beers, ciders, and spirits from some of our best producers plus some unusual wines to try, including en rama unfiltered sherry, skin contact orange wines, and amphora wines made in much the same way as in ancient times.
The Drinks Theatre still has some tickets left and this year has some cutting-edge talks on fermentation, cocktails, and gin as well as wine.
Highlights are the Hugh Johnson interview and the Jancis Robinson tasting on under-priced wines, but as this is sold out the best you can hope for is to stand outside and listen in.
At 1pm today I will be doing a focus on the Monastrell grape, perhaps better known by its French name Mourvèdre and less commonly known as Mataro in Australia and California.
In France it is found throughout the Southern Rhone where it provides backbone to Grenache blends.
It is also grown in Languedoc/Roussillon but it perhaps reaches its apogée in Provence where the wines of Bandol are obliged to use at least 50%.
Most Monastrell in Europe is grown within 80km of the Mediterranean where it likes the long summers and mild winters.
The grape doesn’t ripen well too far north and arguably its perfect climate is found in south-eastern Spain where it is the main grape in Valencia and Murcia.
Among the wines I will be presenting will be some unusual fortified versions and a couple that are not currently available in Ireland such as the d’Arenberg Twenty Eight Road and a wine from Enrique Mendoza in Alicante.
I recommend some Monastrell wines below in case you miss the talk, plus a couple of wines that I consider particularly good value.
Next weekend I will be doing some events at the Burren Slow Food Festival in Lisdoonvarna including a whiskey tasting and an oyster matching event; details at www.slowfoodclare.com/festival/
BEST VALUE UNDER €15
Stockists: Red Nose Wines Green Man Wines Terenure, World Wide Wines Waterford, 64 Wine
Jumilla is in the province of Murcia near Valencia, and Monastrell is once again the grape here. This is a big rich wine with a distinct earthy undertone and gobs of fruit designed to stand up to the smokiest barbecue food or spiciest chorizo.
Stockists: McHughs, Vintry, Martins, Galvins, Selected Independents – particularly NOffLA members
As a nod to the Jancis tasting at Litfest on value wines I am recommending this fine value Salice Salentino from the heel of Italy.
A blend of Negroamaro and Malvasia grapes, there are very few wines with this much flavour and depth under €15. Full flavoured with dried fruits and spice.
Speaking of value wines it is very hard to beat the Toro Loco range in Aldi. I recommended a previous vintage of this but the price seems to have actually come down this year.
Entry level but well-made rosé with boiled sweet aromas ripe red fruit on the palate and crucially a dry clean finish. Serve well chilled in the garden and marvel at the price.
BEST VALUE OVER €15
Stockists: Baggot Street Wines, Celtic Whiskey Shop www.celticwhiskeyshop.com
One tasting I will be sure to attend is the one on Island Wines on Sunday at lunchtime.
The Spanish islands all grow grapes and this is one of my favourites — a blend of local varieties — Callet, Manto Negre and Fogoneu, this is aromatic, ripe and fruity with a solid menthol and mineral kick.
Stockists: Blackrock Cellar, Sweeneys Harts Corner, Baggot Street Wines
I have two reasons for mentioning this wine — it will be part of my Monastrell/Mourvère/Mataro tasting on Saturday and it has been warmly recommended on Jancis Robinson’s website.
Tobacco and smoky dark fruit aromas, rich and supple with spice and vanilla from the American oak ageing.
Stockists: Karwigs Carrigaline www.karwigwines.ie
I warmly recommended the 2010 vintage this time last year and while the 2011 is a little less generous this is still an excellent wine with earthy red fruit aromas, savoury and textured fruit flavours.
The price has gone up a little since last year but this still represents excellent value as are all of the wines in the Gramont range.
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