Now that we are properly into 2016, I have had some further thoughts on wine experiences I enjoyed last year.
While there were many intriguing wine tastings and bottles opened, the wines that linger longest in the memory are those enjoyed in good company and with food.
The bottle of Bollinger Special Cuvée shared à-deux, the Domaine Francois Gerbet Vosne-Romannée (www.burgundydirect.ie) that would have been delicious anywhere but was made particularly memorable by Kevin Thornton’s cooking and my dining companions.
A Quinta de Vargellas 2012 Vintage Port was much improved by the charming company and braised brisket of beef it was enjoyed with in l’Atitude 51 at a charity event for Pieta House.
I have equally fond memories of the generic Tempranillo decanted into a plastic water bottle that I drank at Electric Picnic with some excellent food from the Rathmullen House food truck.
Wine is only ever as good as the mood created around it or the food and company it is served with, so if you are feeling a little broke this January, just make sure that cheap bottle of wine is served with good food in the company of people you like.
My wine selections this week are in two parts. First there are some supermarket bargains for the cash strapped, but bear in mind that the Dunnes Stores offers end on Tuesday next.
Tesco have updated their Finest Range with some unusual grape varieties including a Pecorino from Central Italy and the price below is permanent.
In the over €15 category are three excellent wines from three excellent specialist importers. All of these were tasted at the Green Man wine fair in early December. Sadly none of these have much distribution in Munster but the guys are hoping to change that in 2016.
The shops that do stock their wines are some of the best in the Dublin area and are worth a visit if you are up in the capital for the sales.
Green Man is particularly worth a visit as they provide excellent tapas and sharing plates of cheese and meat from Wednesday to Sunday and corkage on all wines in the shop is just €8.
BEST VALUE UNDER €15
Bellingham Pinopasso, South Africa — €10
Stockist: Dunnes Stores
Made from the much maligned Pinotage grape, but in this instance the grapes have been dried by the appassimento method as for Amarone. There is still a hint of paint on the nose (as would be characteristic of the grape), but on the palate this is packed with bright cherry flavours. Serve a little chilled with pizza.
Il Tauro Salice Salentino, Puglia, Italy — €10
Stockist: Dunnes Stores
Along with regional Spain and Portugal, Southern Italy is an excellent source of good value wines. This is the usual Salice blend of Negroamaro and Malvasia Nero and has the classic bitter cherry and dark fruit aromas, lightly structured but fruity palate.
Tesco Finest Pecorino IGT, Abruzzo, Italy — €13
Sourced from Abruzzo (beside Tuscany) this is another Italian grape variety you should memorise. Originally from the Marche it nearly died out but has had a revival in recent years. This is a typical example, bright, mineral and zesty aromas, soft and fruity on the palate with more lemon citrus on the finish.
BEST VALUE OVER €15
Maretti Langhe Rosso 2013, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy — €17.95
Stockists: Green Man Wines Terenure, Jus de Vine Portmarnock, 64 Wines Glasthule
This is imported by La Rousse who mainly supply restaurants and I first tasted it in Etto, Merrion Row, Dublin. This a blend of the Langhe’s two best grapes, Barbera and Nebbiolo, the latter offering structure and scents of violets and cherry and Barbera putting sweet flesh on the bones.
Stockists: Sheridans Galway & Dublin, 64 Wines, Fallon & Byrne
Kaltern Pinot Bianco, Alto Adige, Italy — €17.95
From the village of Caldaro/Kaltern in the South Tyrol/Alto Adige region in Northern Italy not far from the Austrian border hence the double naming. This is probably the best Pinot Blanc/Weissburgunder I have tasted — aromas of fragrant lemon peel, white flowers and stones, luscious on the palate with a dry fresh kick of acidity on the finish. Excellent.
Domaine le Sang des Cailloux Vacqueyras ‘Doucinella’, Rhone, France — €26.95
Stockists: Wine Shop 1 Pery Sq, Limerick, Green Man Wines, Whelehans Wines, Donnybrook Fair, Grapevine
The blood of the stones is an evocative name for a French wine domaine, especially given the average French winemaker’s overwhelming (and often justified) belief in the influence of soil, stones, and terroir on their wines. This is ripe, complex, and textured with languorous tannins.
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