Wines for Christmas
Christmas seems to have rushed in this year, so hopefully these tips on wines for the party season will make planning the festivities a little easier. Whatever’s on the menu this year, you’ll want to drink something special and celebratory, and there’s a lot out there to suit all budgets.
Some red wine drinkers, whatever they’re eating, prefer rich, full-bodied wines. At the lower end, Superquinn’s Classic Collection Côtes du Rhône is outstanding value at just €7. Full of ripe fruit and a hint of smoke, it was one of my favourite finds this year.
Longue-Dog Grenache Syrah 2008, also under €8, is another little gem that delivers loads for the price. Ripe and spicy in the Southern French style, with soft ripe dark cherry and raspberry fruit and plenty of depth. Either of the above would be good to drink with dinner or to serve at a party. Available at good off-licences.
Moving up the ladder to more serious stuff, Museum Real Reserva 2004 Cigales, is a Northern Spanish 100% tempranillo that packs a powerful punch in terms of body and flavour: black fruits (berries and currants), liquorice, chocolate and vanilla from two years in oak. Yet it is balanced, almost earthy on the nose, and otherwise fab. Available for €17–20 from good off-licences (including O’Briens).
For others however, Christmas dinner calls for pinot noir. Styles vary depending on region and producer. If Burgundy is your preference, then I recommend visiting the Celtic Whiskey Shop/Wines on the Green (also online), which has a good selection. At the lower end (for Burgundy) Potel Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2006 (€16.99) is very good value for what you get, while their Chambolle-Musigny Vieilles Vignes 2004 (€37.99) is a more intense affair. There are other regions producing high quality pinot noir however, albeit not to the taste of Burgundian purists. Olssens Jackson Barry Pinot Noir 2007 (€32.95, The Corkscrew) from Central Otago, New Zealand, is one such example. This wine might even turn heads among ‘old world’ factions, despite its riper cherry/berry fruit, with silky-smooth tannins, hint of savoury-ness, and long clean finish.
Turning to whites, I’ve featured Shoofly Chardonnay Adelaide Hills 2008 (around €13 at good off-licences), which won ‘White Wine of the Year’ at the National Off-Licence Association wine awards this year. With notes of melon, grapefruit/citrus and topical fruit, it’s fresh and easy to enjoy, and a good all-rounder for eating and entertaining.
Once again, Superquinn has an array of good value, good quality options for the dinner table or drinks party: its SQ Sancerre, reduced to €13 for the season, delivers very nicely, especially compared with more expensive examples; and the Classic Collection Gavi (€7) is also a great buy.
Finally, for a little sparkle, both Dunnes and Superquinn are doing some good promotions on Champagne and sparkling wine: Lombard Premier Cru NV (€27, Dunnes) and Louis d’Or NV (€20, Superquinn). While M&S’s Organic Okhre Natur Brut Cava is terrific value for under €10. Also see M&S for some good, exceptionally good value sherry. Happy Christmas!
Mount Horrocks Watervale Semillon 2008
Fallon & Byrne, good wine shops
For Catherine’s chicken dish I’ve decided to focus on just one grape: semillon. It’s a variety that pairs well with poultry or fish generally, with lemony acidity, often nuttiness, herbal notes, and a distinct character described as waxiness or lanolin. It is this particular quality that I find works well with menthol or aniseed combinations in savoury food, and its nuttiness in the case of this recipe. Here, I would look for a rich oaked style that has enough depth of flavour to compliment the dish, but still enough acidity to balance its fatty elements. At the lower end semillon wines tend to be light and fruity, but barrel fermented Bethany Semillon from Australia’s Barossa Valley (€13.45, O’Briens) offers honeyed fruit and rich oak flavours, making it very good value. At around €16 (Tesco) Tim Adams Clare Valley Semillon has good concentration, creamy texture, and a nice dash of that waxy character. However, my ultimate choice is one of my favourite wines in general, with layers of flavours – lemon and lime citrus and apple fruit, cashew nut, lanolin and complex oak flavours – it’s stylish and delicious and long, and well worth the money.
Wakefield Promised Land Shiraz Cabernet
Dunnes stores, independents
Catherine’s decadent confection inspired me to look at full-bodied chocolatey red wines and especially ones with minty flavours. There are a number of regions producing wines of this style. Robust examples of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo can measure up (try sumptuous Masciarelli Riserve, around €28), as well as modern Spanish tempranillo-based wines that use a good heft of American oak (see Honest2Goodness for any of the above). But Australian shiraz is possibly the most celebrated of big full-bodied reds. In particular, Clare Valley shiraz is distinguished by certain mint flavours, in addition to other dark characters typical of the variety. Jim Barry 'The Lodge Hill' Shiraz (around €20) has menthol and aniseed notes on the nose and palate, which enliven the rich chocolate, mocha and juicy dark fruit base of the wine. While O’Leary Walker Clare Valley/McClaren Vale Shiraz (€19.95, The Corkscrew) combines the exotic perfumed fruit of the Clare Valley with the rich chocolatey depths of McClaren. So given its price, this Wakefield offers a lot for what you pay: ripe black and red fruit, plenty of chocolate and mocha flavours, freshness, spice and good length.
Abbé Rous Cuvee des Hospices Banyuls Grand Cru 1998
www.cases.ie, selected independents
In seeking a match for Catherine’s basil, chocolate and pistachio biscuits, I’m reminded of nutty little cantuccini which are commonly served with Vin Santo. This is a fragrant dessert wine produced in Tuscany, made from grapes (predominantly trebbiano and malvasia) that are dried in the sun to concentrate their sugars. The wine can have a nutty, sometimes marzipan character – hence its affinity with those almond biscuits – and it also has honey, baked and dried fruits such as figs and raisins, and good balancing acidity. A rich, sweet example is Cantine Leonardo Vin Santo 'Tegrino' 2004 (€27.99 from thewineshop.ie). However, the chocolate in the recipe leads me to the dark ‘vins doux naturels’ of Banyuls, which is a renowned partner for that ingredient. The wine is made mostly from grenache noir and has a complex nose and palate of dried plum and berry fruit, orange peel, dark chocolate, coffee and fig, to name a few. Pietri-Geraud Banyuls 2007 ‘Mademoiselle O’ (€21.20, Le Caveau) is ripe and round with notes of black tea, plum/blackberry, dried fruit and spice. For a few more quid, however, my chosen grand cru is intensely rich, with walnuts, almonds, prunes, raisins and figs. It’s a perfect way to finish a good meal.
Catena Malbec 2006
O’Briens, most good wine shops
The Dijon mustard in Catherine’s pork dish adds a level of astringency so we need acidity and full-body to match. With that heady balsamic vinegar featuring so prominently, I’d go for a red, and with big flavours like olive and garlic in the mix, I’d pick a wine of equally robust character. For a seriously special treat, Chateau du Cedre ‘GC’ 2007 (€74.65, Le Caveau), an old vine malbec from the classic region Cahors, is elegant and dark, with fragrant dark fruit and spice, mineral notes, and balanced tannin and acidity. A stunner! Lower level Chateau du Cedre 2006 (€19.95, Fallon & Byrne) will give you an idea. For a cheaper option, there are a number of good Argentine malbecs about, such as Trapiche, Argento or especially Norton. However, I urge you to go the extra few euro and try this outstanding example from Catena. Resembling the structure of a Bordeaux, with complex character, spice, black fruit (damson, plum, blackberry), and great balance, it’s simply one of the best.
Classic Collection New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc 2009
This month’s recipes are the epitome of light summer dining and as such need light fresh wines to partner them. The risotto is a combination of delicate flavours and rich creamy texture, so we’ll look for refreshing dry wine to balance the richness, with fresh, uncomplicated aromatics to match but not overwhelm the flavours. A definite favourite of mine is grüner veltliner. When well made, it offers floral and fresh tropical and citrus notes, layered fruit, sometimes vegetal and white pepper character, and a creamy roundness in the mouth. Look in good wine stores for fine examples from Austrian producers Sepp Moser, Höpler, Hirsch, Fritz Salomon and Birgit Eichinger. Wonderful as Austrian grüner is however, it is sadly harder to find, so reliable old sauvignon blanc will do the job too. It has plenty of acidity, green, citrus and sometimes tropical fruit, sometimes herbaceous or vegetal aromatics and sometimes mineral or flinty character. New Zealand SB is now legendary for its ability to deliver all of the above, and this little number from Superquinn is surprising at this price.
Santa Maria La Palma Aragosta Vermentino di Sardegna 2008
Fallon & Byrne, Independents
There are many ways to go with Catherine’s tangy chive and lemon salmon cakes. If you only like to drink red, then as always with fishy or acidic ingredients, look for wine with matching levels of acidity, and I personally feel a good dose of minerality helps too. Try a dry French or New Zealand pinot noir, for instance. However, I would definitely opt for a white here, specifically classic pairings such as Chablis or Pouilly Fuissé which have plenty of crisp lemon citrus and creamy mineral flavours, for an elegant accompaniment. From Spain, the seafood white wine of choice albarino also gives generous helpings of acidity but with often honeyed fruit, ripe peach and apricot, which balance out saltiness. Try Coto Redondo Senorio de Rubios 100% Albarino for a great value option. All of these can be pricey though, or unpredictable in terms of quality at the lower end. So I’ve recommended this very pleasing Sardinian vermentino; a variety that can offer the crispness and minerality of a Chablis, with succulent lemon and lime citrus notes, and often grapefruit. The Aragosta delivers nicely on price.
Goats do Roam White (South Africa) 2009
For me, lavender always conjures up Provence where it grows in abundance and is treated like any herb, adding heady aromatics to all kinds of recipes from ice cream to gratin potatoes. So, instantly I’m drawn to the perfumed whites of the Rhône Valley, a good portion of which runs through Provence. Viognier is the grape here and its classic aromas of violets, acacia, ripe apricots and orange blossom would work perfectly. If you’re eating out and looking for something special, look out for Domaine du Monteillet Condrieu (especially 2005) for a luscious and intense example. Available in the off-trade for considerably less however, Paul Jaboulet Aîné Côtes du Rhône Blanc ‘Parallèle 45’ 2008 (€11.99) adds notes of lime citrus, spice and minerality, in a grenache blanc dominated blend. Sticking with value, South Africa has successfully produced many good versions of Rhône styles, such as Fairview Viognier 2008 (€18.95), which has spades of the grape’s classic perfume with juicy notes of apricot and white peach on the palate. But for best value, I’ve picked the cleverly named Goats do Roam White 2009, with its blend of viognier, roussanne and grenache blanc, for its fresh, approachable style at an affordable price.
Hidalgo Pedro Ximenez Triana
James Nicholson Wine, Selected Independents
Keeping with Catherine’s recipes this month, desserts and sweets give the opportunity of exploring wines from the fun and serious ends of the spectrum. Strawberry shortbread, or simply strawberries or other summer fruits, will often have me reaching for a bright, fruity rosé, especially one based on merlot that offers a generous perfume and matching mouthful of strawberries. Try Chateau Bellevue La Foret Rosé Fronton 2009 (€11.99) to see what I mean. Uncomplicated but very pleasant stuff, best served quite chilled. Fizz is also a popular choice for dessert, so Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato from the Yarra Valley (€6-7), in its neat 37.5cl bottles, could make for a nice partner to a summer pud. However, I did say dessert could be a serious wine course and this sweet sherry from Hildago is just the ticket for those brownies. Almost chocolate-coloured with amber hues, its rich flavours of caramel, butterscotch, prunes and raisins, luscious texture and slight orange peel lift make this the perfect indulgence.
L'Anfora Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC Classico 2009
Catherine Fulvio’s fresh, aromatic Thai recipes this month call for dry wines of equal zestiness that are light and fruity on the palate and have plenty of refreshing acidity. Instantly, I’m drawn towards Italian whites, which have abundant acidity and lots of fresh fruit flavours. Trebbiano, for instance, can make juicy easy drinking wines, and Fontana Candida Frascati Superiore 2008 (widely available), which has 50% malvasia, is a great example, with pear, violets and touches of grass. Greco di tufo can also yield good food-friendly wines, often with slightly honeyed fruit reminiscent of sweet pear, citrus and a certain spiciness – look out for 2008 Mastroberardino GdT DOCG from Campania. For my top pick however, I have chosen this succulent, great value verdicchio. Round and soft on the palate at first, it has flavours of honey, melon, gentle white fruit, a little pepper spice and above all zingy grapefruit, which is so characteristic of this variety. It’s a wine with much to offer when it comes to food, especially with these lively Asian ingredients.
Bidoli Friuli DOC Grave Merlot 2007
Marks & Spencer
Catherine Fulvio’s rich, spicy soup also has me reaching for a refreshing white, but as always, I find there are plenty of options for red wine fans to explore. With the hot spice, lemon and fresh coriander, it’s still important to choose a dry wine, preferably with a savoury or mineral character, and plenty of acidity so as to compliment rather than clash with those strong ingredients. And once again, a fruity wine with enough sweetness to compliment the spices and other strong flavours is what’s required for a good pairing. Southern French and Rhône wines may have the answer. Reds from Crozes Hermitage, for example, have all the spice and juicy fruit of syrah, combined with the fragrant white grapes roussanne and marsanne. M&S has a good value bottle with a touch of white pepper, Domaine Collonge 2007 from Philippe and Vincent Jaboulet. But I have gone back to Italy where you are almost assured of that acidity, and this highly perfumed merlot with its crunchy red fruit, floral notes and soft tannins, is an approachable number with a bit of interest. Blackcurrant, blueberry, raspberry, tasty but chalky minerality and wonderful spice, make this one a great pick for big flavoured dishes.
Henschke Tilly’s Vineyard Semillon Chardonnay Sauvignon Blanc 2008
(PS available for a stonking €19.95 at the Corkscrew!)
As an ingredient, marjoram gives us a lot to work with, with sweet pine, citrus and savoury characters, not dissimilar to oregano. In Catherine Fulvio’s soup, it’s combined with sweet orange juice and sweet, earthy carrots, so we need at least a medium bodied wine with complimentary flavours; fresh citrus fruit and perhaps also some sweetness from ripe tropical fruit, such as melon, banana and pineapple. In addition, oak can add toastiness, possibly some earthy or nutty character, as well as depth and weight. Two grapes in particular jump to mind. Semillon can give rich lemon citrus, sometimes herbal notes and often, thanks to lees contact, a creaminess on the palate that adds body. New world chardonnay can give generous tropical fruit and very often a touch of oak for extra weight and complexity. Brought together in a blend, they make excellent food wines, and this one from Henschke (which also includes a small amount of pinot gris) has buckets of flavour. Lots of lemon, orange and even lime citrus character, some honeyed floral notes, and a long clean finish. A typically elegant example from a consistent producer.
Père Anselme Reserve de l'Aube Syrah-Merlot 2008
The Corkscrew, good independents
There are a lot of ways to match Catherine’s flavourful chicken dish, with the big flavours of the chilli, olives, garlic and acidic tomatoes dictating the requirements of the wine to match. A reasonably full-bodied red with medium plus levels of acidity and some juicy ripe fruit to stand up to the chilli is definitely in order. Italy is always a good place to look in this case and something along the lines of Planeta La Segreta Rosso 2007 (nero d'avola, merlot, syrah, and cabernet franc), which appeared in this column last August, would go well; or a similar blend based around another good grape, negroamaro. However, this stunning bargain from Pays d’Oc is the winner for me. Not only because of its price but also as it’s flavour profile includes all the necessary elements, the juicy fruit (fresh cassis, rich ripe cherry and brambleberry), pepper and spice, and, most especially, a hint of herbs de Provence. What more could you ask?
Barefoot White Zinfandel 2008
Lemon balm is such a fragrant, summery herb and its intense lemony scent and flavour make it a great choice for enlivening fruity recipes like Catherine Fulvio’s. It’s refreshing in fruit salads and cold fruit soups, which can be served at the beginning or end of a meal. For these kinds of dishes we need a wine as fresh and versatile as the herb itself: fruity but dry, and aromatic to match its heady scent. Mission Trail 2009 White Zinfandel (€7-10) has notes of peaches and cranberries on the nose, and has a floral, dry red fruit palate with a touch of fruit salad. Similarly, Round Hill Vineyards 2008 White Zinfandel (€10-15) has low residual sugar but is strawberry-laden on the nose and palate, with touches of fresh summer fruits. However, the rosé I’ve selected has plenty of fragrant strawberry and dry red fruit, but the added bonus of a ‘strawberries and cream’ like flavour and texture on the palate, with enough fresh acidity and weight to match either starter or desert.
Domaine la Croix Gratiot 2009 Picpoul de Pinet, Coteaux du Languedoc
www.thewineshop.ie, selected independents
Lemon balm is also used in fresh garden salads, spring vegetable pastas and risottos, and as a marinade for poultry or white fish. Depending on the recipe, there are many white wines that could work well, and many ways to match the herb. For instance, you could find a wine with equally intense and complimentary aromatics, such as Lingenfelder Vineyard Creatures ‘Bird Label’ Riesling 2007 (€13.99), with its fragrant lime citrus, apple and floral notes and dry, mineral finish. A good viognier would also offer an amply perfumed wine. Or you could try something less aromatic but with juicy, yellow fruit character that could stand up to the lemon balm and work with a variety of flavours, such as Cantina di Monteforte 2009 Pinot Grigio Chardonnay (€9.99) with its yellow nose and palate of banana, pineapple and other fresh tropical fruit. Picpoul, though, is known for its greenish hue and crisp lemony notes, and this example has plenty of that, as well as delicate fresh yellow tropical fruit on the nose and peachy, fresh citrus fruit on the palate: a great choice for many summer dishes.
Quady Winery Essensia 2007
Gibney’s (Malehide), selected independents
At a recent tasting I came across Andrew Quady and his selection of sweet and fortified wines from California’s Central Valley, and amazingly, all on offer at his table could compliment Catherine Fulvio’s bay leaf recipes. From those available in Ireland, the Essensia (100% orange muscat) is an obvious choice for her peaches in bay-scented syrup, with its bright apricot and orange blossom nose, and rich candied orange peel, apricots and lifting acidity on the palate. However, the black muscat variant, Elysium (also available at €15.95), has more interesting elements of roses and lychee, followed by dark cherries and spice on the palate, which would complement the herby edge in Fulvio’s dessert. Funnily enough, the dark fruit and more savoury characters of the Elysium would make it a good partner to cheese also, but whichever you choose, both represent excellent value for what you get. On a side note, if Quady’s ‘Deviation’ ever comes to Ireland, have a go and be prepared for something very different. Let’s just hope somebody chooses to take it on.
Delicato Family Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel 2007
Spar Ballsbridge, selected independents
As I mentioned above, certain sweet and fortified wines make a fine match to cheese and other savoury foods, such as Fulvio’s bay and onion chutney, which itself would be a good partner to many different cheeses. In addition to Elysium, Quady’s Starboard – their take on Port, based largely on tinta roriz – would work well with this combination, with its dark cherries, red currents, spice and chocolate notes. However, for something a little more affordable, I highly recommend this wine from Delicato Family vineyards, and at this special price it’s astoundingly cheap for old vine zin. On the nose it has ripe cherries and raspberries, on the palate, rich, juicy bramble fruit, more dark cherries, and warm spicy notes. A glass of this would make a great companion to a dollop of that chutney on the side of oat biscuits and a crumbly blue cheese, and at that price, an absolute bargain.
Heartland Stickleback White 2008
Searsons, selected independents
Watercress is a lively, peppery leaf that comes into season around April, and is a terrific ingredient for light spring-time dishes such as Catherine’s salad. With its mix of cress, fruit, nuts and acidic cheese, a zippy white with enough robustness of flavour is needed to compliment all the contrasting elements. Something like albariño, from northern Spain, would work beautifully, as it has good acidity and a tangle of citrus and apricot fruit. However, better examples can be expensive, which is why I’ve chosen this little number from South Australia’s Limestone Coast; a region capable of growing cool-climate grapes. The 2008 vintage comprises a blend that yields a dry complex wine, with a touch of minerality thanks to the soil. Verdelho adds richness, as does semillon, which also contributes zesty acidity and a slight nuttiness, while viognier and pinot gris create luscious floral characters and tropical and citrus fruit flavours. It’s a balanced and crisp wine that proves a good match for many dishes.
Fairview Pinotage Viognier 2007
Fallon & Byrne
As with fish, recipes like watercress soup or salads automatically mean white wine for many people, but it’s always good to know an alternative, especially for those who only like to drink red. Something with a bit of pepper and spice and good fresh acidity is called for. Sangiovese-based reds, such as Chianti, and other Italian or Sicilian wines will fit the bill. For me however, South Africa’s pinotage grape came to mind straight away for it’s fiery spice, earthiness, and unique character that is sometimes described as being like fresh paint. Pinotage is a cross between dark, plummy cinsault and fresh, complex pinot noir. The example I’ve selected is tempered with the fragrant white grape viognier (as in Rhône reds), which gives it grapey, floral aromas and a little lift on the palate. It has ripe, dark fruit flavours balanced by a good level of acidity, spicy black pepper and just a hint of that classic pinotage character. This is beautiful wine to have with anything.
Canti Negroamaro Zinfandel 2008
Most good independents
Mulled wine is a favourite treat at Christmas and Catherine Fulvio’s recipe is especially rich and complex. While you don’t want to spend too much on wine you’re effectively going to cook (gently, that is) it’s still important to use something of decent quality. Both of the wines I have chosen this month are winners of the National Off-Licence Association Gold Star Awards, and this red was the ‘best old world red under €8. This price quality-ratio is ideal. In particular, the characters of the two grapes in this blend lend themselves very well to the spicy recipe, with developed fruit to match up to the other ingredients. Zinfandel is aromatic and typically produces plump raspberry, blackberry, black cherry and sometimes cranberry-like flavours. It is also known give a little liquorice, cinnamon or black pepper. Negroamaro meanwhile, which means ‘black’ and ‘bitter,’ gives intense red fruit, dried fruit and spicy character. Together in this wine, you have an ideal base for Catherine’s recipe, and great value for the quality you get.
Michel Redde Pouilly Fumé AC ‘Petit Fumé’ 2008
Most good independents
Catherine’s spiced poached pears and Cashel Blue crostinis sound like the perfect starter or canapés for indulging over the festive holidays; something that could be enjoyed with an aperitif or as part of a special lunch. There are a number of options that could work with this dish, and red springs to mind on account of it being an ingredient. In that case, a rich Rioja Reserva such as Maques de Riscal (€16.99) would offer ripe bramble fruit and Christmas spices, thanks to its two years aging in American oak. However, my preference is for a layered white that contrasts with the food as well picking out flavours. This Pouilly Fumé (sauvignon blanc) has depth and forward apple and pear notes that will work nicely with the cheese and fruit in the dish. However, its lean mineral characters and refreshing acidity will cut its richness and offer a balancing accompaniment. Michel Redde’s ‘Petit Fumé’ was named ‘best wine of the year’ and at this price, it’s a steal.
Tolloy Alto Adige Gewurztraminer 2008
Catherine Fulvio’s spicy apple relish could be a perfect companion for cheese, or perhaps a braised pork dish, or even spicy Indian food. That said, I look to wines that will pick up on certain flavours in the food but will also balance the spiciness and richness. Germanic or Austrian-style gewürztraminer, pinot gris, grüner veltliner, or riesling each have merits that would work. Grüner has a distinct touch of white pepper, laced with tropical fruit and often green vegetable notes that would make a good match to pork dishes especially. Pinot gris can have a strong apple skin character as well as some spiciness, which could compliment certain cheeses if it was an oily style (try Omaka Springs 2006 approx €15). Gewurztraminer is my ultimate choice however, with its delicate lychee, passion fruit, floral (rose) and characteristic black pepper. It can partner fruit and spice, with a sweetness to balance spicy food and acidity to cut fatness. Tolloy’s example, at a great price from Superquinn, delivers well and would make an approachable introduction for those not familiar with the variety.
Paul Cluver Noble Late Harvest Riesling 2005 (half bottle)
For the apple cake, there are a few different options that could work, especially if it’s at the end of a meal. For many, Calvados would be the only way to go, and certainly it would work with apples. However, for something a little less alcoholic, a sweet, fruity sparkler, such as Asti Spumante with its orange and floral aromas and flavours, would make a perfectly nice accompaniment. Or Sekt (sparkling riesling, pinot blanc or pinot gris), to stick with the Germanic theme. For me though, sweet wines from botrytis-affected riesling, pinot gris or gewurztraminer make for a more sophisticated option. Prices can be as stunning as some wines where this category is concerned, so I’ve chosen Paul Cluver Noble Late Harvest Riesling as it gives a lot for what you pay; luscious peachy, dried fruit and honey flavours, and delicious with almost any fruit-based dessert.
Cono Sur 20 Barrels Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2006
I’ve decided to tempt fate this month and talk about wines for barbecues. Although coming to the end of our summer there’s still plenty of time left for my favourite kind of alfresco dining, and the sky’s the limit when it comes to finding wines to match. My ideal barbecue is laden down with succulent grilled fish or prawns and usually tasty marinated vegetables. For this, because barbecued food has a smoky, oily dimension, I choose a white wine with plenty of acidity, decent weight and not too subtle fruit. A substantial South African chenin blanc or Italian pinot grigio, such as Pinot Grigio Millesmato Trentino DOC (€13.75 Mitchell &Son) would do just the trick. However, Cono Sur 20 Barrels Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2006, with its citrus, pineapple and concentrated gooseberry flavours, and pleasing mineral layer, is a great all-rounder for a good grill.
Vasse Felix Cabernet Merlot 2007
64 Wine (Glasthule), Cheers
Of course, I can be just as enthusiastic about a meat-filled barbecue, and for many people that means red: the meat and the wine. Whether you’re grilling steaks, burgers or even roasting a leg of lamb over the coals, big juicy fruity reds are what’s needed to stand up to the robust flavours of the meat. It really wouldn’t be right to talk about barbecues without mentioning Australia and in this instance it’s the perfect region for the job. Shiraz or shiraz cabernet blends are both tannic and brimming with mouth watering black fruit and smoky flavours, and Wakefield Promised Land Shiraz Cabernet (€11.49 O’Briens) over-delivers for the price. The Margaret River cab merlot I’ve chose however, is silky, well-balanced, and full of plump blackcurrant, mocha and earthy flavours and aromas that make it that bit more special; more worthy of a majestic t-bone any day of the week.
Sacchetto Pinot Rosa Frizzante NV
This month Cathrine Fulvio’s summery strawberry recipes call for something sweet, which might make the perfect partner to the aromatic, fruity desserts we love to indulge in during summer. Muscat-based wines are just the ticket here, such as the southern Rhône sweet wine Muscat Beaumes de Venise, brimming with rich grapey, orange blossom and floral aromas. However, a cool, sweet sparkling wine might make a better match for fresh strawberries, and Italy’s Asti Spumante, made from white ‘moscato,’ has the delicate sweetness lifted by zesty fruit to work well in this pairing; try Mondoro Asti Spumante NV (around €18 from selected independents). For something a little easier on the wallet, Sacchetto Pinot Rosa Frizzante NV, made from pinot noir, is full of lively red fruit, strawberries and cherries, with a little acidic kick, and could work well with dessert of even as a nice aperitif.
Tortoiseshell Bay Sangiovese Barbera Rosé 2007
Another wine that strawberries call to mind is rosé, which is most commonly associated with the South of France where varieties including syrah, grenache and cinsault are used to produce both aromatic and fruity, and dry and herbaceous styles. Laurent Miquel Cinsault Syrah Vin de Pays d'Oc 2008 from the Languedoc region (widely available for around €9) is a good example at the lower end. But for something a little more special, Bordeaux’s Chateau Turcaud Rosé 2007 (€14.95 from Fallon & Byrne) offers plentiful fresh strawberry aromas and flavours, lifted on the palate by grassy and citrus notes and a subtle mineral streak on the finish. The new world also has much to offer in the rosé stakes, and this example from Tortoiseshell Bay makes for great value. A blend of two classic Italian varieties, it’s packed with juicy soft red fruits and is perfect easy-drinking wine for any summer dining.
Trimbach Alsace Riesling 2006
This month Catherine Fulvio explores the many ways that fennel can be enjoyed so I’ve decided to explore the wines that work well with it. Her stuffed pork dish combines many rich flavours from the meat itself to the bittersweet granny smiths, all of which lend themselves to many different styles. Ultimately, for a pork, fennel and apple combination, I turn to generous weighty whites from Germany and Austria. Gewurztraminer’s intense exotic aromas of rose, lychee, citrus and black pepper compliment the aromatic mix in the dish, with enough weight to stand up but enough acidity to cut the richness. To push the boat out try Dopff & Irion Alsace Gewurztraminer, which is pricey at around €20 but worth it. However, for a little less dosh, Trimbach’s 2006 Riesling offers something a tad crisper, with concentrated green apple, good weight and a lean mineral streak that lingers on the finish. This wine would stand up to rich stuffed pork or partner elegantly with roast fennel and fish; I’d say a fail safe for many food matches.
Ch Peyriac de Mer Corbières 2003
Carvill’s Camden St Dublin 2
Likewise for the reds, there are many options for matching these food combinations, perhaps even more than with white, and with more choice in the lower end. If you wished to stick with Italian, where fennel is quite at home, a Dolcetto or Barbera would not go amiss. However, for me it has to be the Languedoc’s rustic carignan-based blends, where the grapes are vinified to produce deeply coloured juicy wines, filled out with the spice of syrah, the fruit of grenache and the tannin of mourvèrde. Dunnes Stores offers a good value Laurent Miguel Syrah Grenache at €8.99, but this number from the Corbières appellation, with its ripe dark berry, red fruit, spice and floral notes, is worth the little bit extra.