Wine with Caroline Byrne 2012 (from The Irish Garden magazine)

My wine column matches wines to seasonal food and recipes each month in The Irish Garden's a tough job but someone has to do it

Something different for Christmas!

In deference to Donnybrook Fair’s unconventional recipes, I’ve come up with a few surprises of my own for Christmas – grapes and prices that don’t appear often in wine columns.

Lidl has some surprising value on its shelves this Christmas, and surprisingly good for what you spend at that. Their Riesling Pfalz/Rhh QbA  2011 (€5.99) is off dry with zingy citrus fruit flavours and decent length, good for an aperitif or an Asian-style dish. Cimarosa Chilean Chardonnay Reserva Privada 2010 (€6.99) has floral notes and yellow fruits, plenty of attractive character. Many a Christmas party – or dinner – would be amply served by Lidl’s Merlot IGP d’OC 2011 (€5.99), with its soft, juicy, plummy fruit and good balance. And their Côtes de Bordeaux Blayes AOC 2011 (€5.99) with fresh dark fruit would be a respectable bottle to bring to any party.

O’Brien’s also has some exceptional value for money for the festive season. Kreydenweiss Kritt Pinot Blanc 2010 (€12.99) has a delicious nose of pollen and honeyed flowers, followed up by round tropical fruit and a dry finish. Sao Blanc 2011 (€19.99) is expensive, and a straight macabeo (also known as viura), but rewards with violets, pears, floral and spicy oak notes on the end – worth the money in my view. Also well worth it is Cigalus 2010 (€34.99), a 50:50 blend of merlot and cab sauv, and while it would benefit from some age, it is rich, deep and utterly lovely.

For a very adventurous twist, try some of Marks & Spencer’s more unusual offerings. Krauthaker Golden Valley Grasevina 2011 from Croatia (€13.29) is a dry white, slightly savoury yet tropical and finishes with interesting floral notes. Atlantis Santorini 2011 from Greece, a blend of 90% Assyrtiko, 5% Aidani and 5% Athiro (€14.99), is also white and has delicious flavours of grapefruit, pineapple and spice. Nice red options from M&S include Feudi di San Marzano Negroamaro (€9.49) from Puglia, Italy. I loved its soft tannins, round plum fruit and dry finish – a nice wine for Christmas dinner. Or if you prefer something weightier, Château les Croisilles Cahors 2009 (€14.99) from the producer of beautiful Château du Cedre, is big and bold but with some elegance in its dark fruit character, spicy and long to the finish.

Finally, the festive season will also call for bubbly and some nice stickies for sweet moments. Lidl’s Comte de Brismand Champagne Brut (€17.99) delivers a lot for the price – apple and nice yeasty flavours with a good mousse. From a rising star in sparkling wine, England’s Ridgeview Cavendish Sparkling White 2008 (€27.99) is crisp and complex with nutty and floral tones. And Toffoli Prosecco Frizzante DOC (€14.95, The Corkscrew) is a lovely creamy number for fans of this popular grape. On the sweet side, Lustau Dry Old Olorosso NV
(€11.49) Quinta da Roeda 20 Year Old Tawny Port NV (€49.00) and Henriques & Henriques Malmsey Madeira 2011 (€26.50) all from M&S, are delicious and grown up wines that deliver excellent value at their respective price points. Bethany Late Harvest Rieslng 2007 (€22.99, O’Briens) is a treat with luscious sweet tropical fruit and refreshing acidity. Cheers!


(to match spiced butternut squash and plum chutney, for cheese and charcuterie)

Château La Canorgue Côtes du Lubéron Blanc 2008

Le Caveau

This month’s recipes give scope for trying many different styles of wine. All the elements of the chutney have really big flavours –nutty squash, sweet and sharp fruit, fiery chilli, layers of spice – and paired with cheese or charcuterie leads to plenty of options in red and white. If you prefer full-bodied reds, you could try a shiraz – such as Wakefield Estate from the Clare Valley, gently spiced with rich dark berry and plum fruit (€13, widely available) or Wakefield’s lower tier offering Promised Land from South Australia, which has plenty fruit, spice and savoury oak character (€7-9, widely available). Another option is a juicy grenache noir from South of France, which can have smoky and spicy notes – try Domaine de Cristia (€12, Superquinn) which is smooth and fruity and would go down nicely with the chutney and some meaty terrine. New World pinot noir would also work, with sweet red fruit, medium plus levels of acidity, and smoky, savoury flavours. Innocent Bystander from Yarra Valley (€15, independents) or Firesteed from Oregon, USA (€19-21, Fallon & Byrne) are wines of this ilk. On the white side you could look for an oaked sauvignon blanc which often has clove spice and smoky flavours – such as a fumé blanc from California. Gewurztraminer is great with cheese and would work with the chutney thanks to its range of exotic floral and fruit notes, black pepper, spice and, sometimes, smoky character. However, I’d opt for a Rhône Valley white, which is versatile and typically exhibits the acidity and layered flavours we need. Canorgue Viognier VdP Vaucluse (€16.50, Le Caveau) offers dried apricots and toasty, nutty flavours, especially hazel nuts, which would partner well with the chutney and some mild full fat cheese or prosciutto. My featured wine though – Château La Canorgue Côtes du Lubéron Blanc (€16.50, Le Caveau) – is a blend of clairette, roussanne, marsanne and bourbelenc, and beautifully balances ripe apple, citrus and exotic fruit, with clean mineral and acidic structure, and that particular spiciness common to great Rhône whites.

(to match poached nectarines in orange and limoncello)

Ascheri Moscato d'Asti


For the dessert we want a light, fruity sweet wine with good acidity and not too much sugar. Brown Brothers Orange Muscat (around €10) is an economical and widely available option with lots of orange blossom, citrus fruit, floral notes and soft texture. You could also try Oddero Moscato d'Asti 2009 (€8.95 for 375ml, which is filled with young fresh fruit and floral flavours and has a gorgeous bouquet of aromatics that would pair beautifully with the nectarines and Limoncello. My featured wine is exactly the style I’m after and pretty good value too. Light and fresh with a slight effervescence, it has delicate white peach, grape and rose petal notes on the palate and a rich aromatic nose. It’s a great wine for fruit-based desserts, and at only 5.5% ABV will not cause too many sore heads!

JULY 2012

(wines to match tomato consommé)

Astrolabe Sauvignon Blanc

Widely available at independents
When I think of tomatoes I instantly think of that pungent greenhouse smell of the vine stem, the sweetness of the fruit and their naturally high acidity. Believe it or not this is perfect territory for sauvignon blanc, which in its now most popular style can combine all of these things. I’m referring of course to New Zealand’s particular expression of the grape, often giving vegetal notes of pea, asparagus and tomato stem, plumped up with ripe greengage, gooseberry and tropical fruit, medium to high acidity, and flinty minerality. The popularity of kiwi SB however has made this segment of the wine section something of a minefield. There is a vast array on offer, some at staggering prices, and many of them not nearly worth the money. There are also some genuinely good wines though, at a range of prices, so fear not. Brancott Estate (Montana) Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (€12-13, widely available at supermarkets and independents), from the quintessential NZ sauvignon region, is a consistent wine with ripe aromatic tropical fruit character and every bit the classic style for which the region is famed. Another kiwi at the lower end of the price spectrum is Villa Maria Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (€13, widely available, €8 on promotion in Dunnes Stores), with vegetal and herbaceous notes and green tangy fruits such as gooseberry, apple, lime and passion fruit. Given the certain specialness of our consommé recipe though, I’d be inclined to push the boat out and go for something with a bit more class. In March I mentioned Forrest Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2011 (around €16,, whose mineral core adds texture and elegance to its classic flavours. No column on NZ sauvignon could fail to mention Cloudy Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (€26-29, widely available at supermarkets and independents), which is possibly the most famous example. It has to be said that it’s tomato stem-laden vegetal character, perfumed exotic fruits and clean acidity make this an eminently drinkable wine, and perfect for the consommé. I’ll leave others to make their minds up on the value for money though. Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc (€21-24) from the winemaker of Cloudy Bay, Lawson's Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc (€18-20), and Dog Point Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (€21-24) are three other well known kiwi gems in the upper price bracket – each deliver something special but again, it’s horses for courses when it comes to how much you’re willing to pay. My chosen wine, however, I believe to be worth the slightly higher price tag. Expect all of the typical aromatics, classic mineral flavours and beautifully balanced acidity, for a fairer price than others of this ilk.

(wine to match mango mousse with passion fruit coulis)

Carmes de Rieussec 2007

€ 17.99 (37.5cl), € 32.99 (75cl)
The mango and passion fruit dessert demands a restrained sweet wine with similar fruit flavours and good balancing acidity. For this reason a sauvignon blanc based dessert wine is the answer, with the passion fruit, pineapple, sweet topical notes and medium plus acidity that the grape delivers. Bordeaux is the region that specialises in this style and the offering ranges from simple up to the heavenly bodies of Sauternes. Some nice examples include Chateau Haut-Mayne Sainte-Croix-du-Mont 2006 (€19.95, and the featured Carmes de Rieussec in a good value half bottle.

JUNE 2012

(wine matches for summer seafood stew)

Tres Olmos Lias Verdejo 2009 Rueda

Fallon & Byrne, specialist independents
The seafood stew is rich in flavour, combining aniseed, garlic, parsley and all that beautiful fish and shellfish. It also has a lot of acidity from the tomatoes and white wine, so we need something dry and fragrant and with a bit of punch to partner up with these elements. The search can be narrowed down straight away to France and Spain – yes other regions produce dry fragrant wines, but when you have two countries that specialise in this very seafood recipe and make perfect wines to match, why look elsewhere? In the South of France where you’d likely be eating this dish (in my dream, anyway) you would often drink a dry rosé, such as Cotes de Provence, or white such as Piquepoul de Pinet from the Languedoc. Muscadet sur Lie from the Loire is another common option for seafood, although I prefer the fruitier wines of the south in the case of this colourful recipe. Southern French whites contain blends of grenache blanc, roussanne, clairette and other local varieties, giving fresh, floral often honeyed wines. Try Les Auzines Fleurs Blanches 2009 (€12.99, O’Briens) for a delicious example made from organic grenache gris. From South West France En La Tradition 2010 from St Mont (€12.99, Baggot Street Wines) offers an interesting blend of arrufiac, petit courbu and manseng, giving a fresh white with floral scented fruit. Over to Rias Baixas in North West Spain and you’d probably be drinking albariño – like pinot gris, it’s made in a range of styles from light and fruity to ripe and weighty, and both can be very pleasant. Senorio Di Rubios Albarino 2010 (around €14, Fallon & Byrne) has characteristic apricot and tropical fruit but a clean mineral backbone that adds complexity, making it worth a few bob more. Paco & Lola Albarino (€10, Dunnes Stores) is a lighter, more playful take on the classic style. My penchant, however, is for the grape verdejo, which is the star of the gorgeous perfumed wines of Rueda. Vina Adaja Verdejo by Garcia Revalo (€12-14, independents) is a fragrant example with delicious tropical fruit and a hint of herbs. For a little bit less their Casamaro Blanco (around €10), which includes 15% viura, is lifted by fresh citrus flavours. My featured wine though is 100% verdejo from very old vines and it spends 6 months on the lees, giving it a creamy texture, adding opulence to its elegant fruit and bright acidity. It’s tremendous value – available to try by the glass in Fallon & Byrne and KC Peaches Wine Cave. 

(wine matches for cherry semi-freddo with apple and cherry compote)

Domaine Pietri-Geraud Banyuls Rimage 2009
The Corkscrew/

Our semi-freddo with apple and cherry compote is the perfect partner for two of my favourite sweet wines. The first being Recioto della Valpolicella, which often gives rich layers of cherry and other dry red fruit, and the second, Banyuls, a sweet wine made mostly from grenache, with sumptuous flavours of raisin, cherry and chocolate. These might sound a bit rich but with all their ample acidity and served cold they make beautiful accompaniments to this dessert. Try Montezovo Recioto della Valpolicella 2007 (€27.95, The Corkscrew) and my featured Banyuls, also from The Corkscrew, and be converted. 

MAY 2012

Château Haut Rian Cuvée Prestige 
Château Haut Rian Cuvée Prestige Premières Côtes de Bordeaux 2009

€12.95, Independents

Seeing as it’s Bordeaux season – the 2011 en primeur was unleashed at Easter – I think it’s only fitting to dedicate at least one part of this month’s column to the wines of this very famous region. It’s a hard one to negotiate at times, but the current vintages on shelf, 2009 and 2010, were good and there’s a lot of quality and value to be had, especially from the less well-known appellations. As always, when I’m talking French I must single out Superquinn among the supermarkets, whose range of Bordeaux reds spans the price spectrum from modest to special occasion with reliable quality at each level. From the merlot-dominated right bank, the SQ Saint Emilion Grand Cru (Château Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Figeac 2009, €29.47) is a powerful example with good intensity of dark berry fruit, firm but not overpowering tannins and lovely long length. Petit Cantenac Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2009 (€25.40) also offers generous layers of lush fruit, backed by classic savoury Bordeaux flavours. From the cabernet-dominated Medoc (left bank), Superquinn’s Chateau le Boscq Saint-Estephe 2004 (€27.49) represents good value for a well-made wine in the prime of its drinking years, with restrained but elegant cassis fruit and beautiful balance. Any independents worth their salt will stock some stunners from the major appellations at these prices and well beyond. Where they really excel, however, is at the lower end. Chateau Gromel Bel-Air Bordeaux Superieur 2006 (€14.95, The Corkscrew) is a delicious, nicely concentrated example. Chateau Cadillac "Cuvee J.J. Lesgourges" 2009 (€13.50, Mitchell & Son) has classic character, soft tannins and rounded structure. And my featured wine, from the Premières Côtes de Bordeaux, gives so much for the modest asking price, with ripe cassis, silky tannins and a layered enjoyable finish.  So don’t be put off by the complicated labels and scary prices of Bordeaux – ask for advice when buying and you’ll be rewarded with a wine less ordinary.

Marks & Spencer Bellante Rose NV  

Marks & Spencer

After all that serious wine talk, I must give a nod to our seasonal strawberry recipes – and why not, as summer is finally upon us (we hope) and that’s the time for something fun and pink. Before I get too frivolous though, it’s worth mentioning that some rosés can be excellent food wines, or just good to drink any time. Les Domaniers Rose Ott Selection 2009 (€17.95,, for example, has an attractive strawberry nose and creamy fresh fruit and dry, nutty palate. Or Domaine Tempier Bandol Rose 2008 (€24.39, Karwig Wines) whose pale and interesting colour matches its delicate character. But if we’re talking fun and fruity, Cremant De Loire Premier Cru Rose NV (around €18, Superquinn) is a great value rosé sparkler, with strawberry aromas and flavours – outshines many more expensive sparkling rosés. Sacchetto Prosecco Colli Trevigiani Rosé NV (€11, widely available) is another fun, fruity option. And lastly, this pretty, festive offering from M&S will do just the trick for a barbecue or summer party, and I wouldn’t be shy about serving it at a wedding reception either.

APRIL 2012

(wine matches for Barbecue Chinese Pork Salad with Plum Sauce)

Zind Humbrecht Gewürztraminer 2005

O’Brien’s, Independents

As I’ve mentioned many times before, I’m a huge fan of pork and its versatility when it comes to wine matching, so I’ve focused on certain red and white options for the pork dish which were just made to hold hands with it. In the marinade we have a lot of aniseed flavour going on, as well as a good bit of sweetness. For whites, straight away I’m thinking of off-dry styles of the aromatic varietals gewürztraminer and pinot gris. The latter is more commonly found in drier, fruity examples these days, but seek out one with some residual sugar, ripe fruit character, oily texture and a touch of spice and you’ll have a good match – try Forrest Estate Pinot Gris 2007 (€16-18, Independents). Gewürz, for me, really hits the nail on the head though, with its exotic floral and fruit flavours, and its distinctive naturally occurring spice. Mitchell & Son have two great bottles from two good producers: CSL Gewurztraminer Vorbourg Grand Cru 2009 (€30, and Sipp Mack Gewurztraminer VV 2007 (€21.50), each with bountiful rose petal and characteristic pepper and ginger spice. Trimbach Gewurtztraminer 2008 (€18, O’Brien’s, Superquinn) is a more widely available example, and one that proves Trimbach to be a consistent master of the variety, vintage after vintage. I have chosen to highlight Zind Humbrecth especially, however, as it remains a standard-bearer among producers of gewürztraminer: perfumed and complex with lychee and other fruit flavours, spice and rose petals through the palate, and a wonderfully long finish – a very beautiful wine.

Weingut Markowitsch Carnuntum Zweigelt-Pinot Noir 2005

As with the whites, I’m looking for a red wine that will compliment and enhance the sweet, aniseed flavours of the pork marinade. There are a few red grapes that develop liquorice flavours, and have enough acidity so as to nicely off-set sweetness –in general, good acidity is the hallmark of a good food wine. Shiraz from the McLaren Vale can often produce a heady liquorice character, along with succulent blackberry, other dark fruit and spice, especially black pepper. There’s a lot on offer out there if this style floats your boat – try D'Arenberg The Footbolt Shiraz (€16-18, Independents). Another place producing wines that would work well is the Morgon appellation in Beaujolais, a region generally known for copious quantities of light, typically not very good plonk. The wines of Morgon on the other hand are deep and characterful expressions of the gamay grape, with silky tannins like a Burgundy, earthiness and spice alongside elegant perfumed red fruit. O’Brien’s have a couple but try a good independent wine store if you fancy learning more about these less common wines. Finally, I must recommend pinot noir, as a grape capable of delivering spice, sweet red fruit, acidity, aniseed and much, much more. Fixin is one appellation where you’ll find the darker expression of pinot (dark fruit, chocolate, liquorice), also Pommard and Corton. Others such as Chambolle-Musigny and Beaune tend to exhibit more red fruit character but often still have plenty of spice. The pinot I’m highlighting though (the Carnuntum zweigelt-pinot noir blend) comes from a place you might not think of at all for red wine – Austria. A blend of pinot and local zweigelt, it’s soft and floral with smooth tannins, red cherry and berry fruit and a lingering spicy finish. More proof that Austria is not to be ignored among the world’s great wine regions.

MARCH 2012

(wine matches for Asparagus Souffle and Spinach Gnocchi with Lemon Sauce)

Forrest Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2011

James Nicholson Wine Merchant

It is a truth universally acknowledged that asparagus recipes must be in want of sauvignon blanc. Asparagus is an aromatic characteristic famously found in vegetal examples of sauvignon blanc and its other herbaceous and sharp green fruit flavours make it a very good partner for the pungent veg. Before I look at some of these wines though, it’s worth mentioning another, more elegant possibility: namely Chablis. It has restraint and so won’t overpower the delicate flavours of the soufflé, but it can also possess vegetal and lean flavours, which compliment asparagus. There’s a lot of Chablis out there and many of them are not worthy of the hefty price tags they carry. If you’re willing to splash out a bit Gerard Tremblay (around €18, and Chanson Pere & Fils (€19, O’Brien’s) are both good. Otherwise Superquinn Classic Collection Petit Chablis (€10) doesn’t do a bad job for the price. Sauvignon-Semillon blends have that added depth which could also work well for the soufflé. Try Vasse Felix Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon (around €14, independents) or Wakefield Promised Land Sauvignon-Semillon (around €10, Dunnes Stores). There are many straight sauvignons, however, that can satisfy the needs of this recipe. Smoky and mineral, as from Puilly Fumé, intense and aromatic, as from Sancerre, or pungent and powerful, as from New Zealand – there is a world of styles and price points. There are too many, in fact, so I’ll just make a quick mention of Superquinn’s Classic Collection Sancerre and Puilly Fumé (€12 each) which represent great value for these appellation wines. Finally, for a worthy example of NZ sauvignon blanc in all its glory, try Forrest Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (around €16, or the considerably more elegant (and expensive) John Forrest Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2009, if you can find it.

Tim Adams Clare Valley Semillon 2009


Any of the above wines would actually work pretty well with the gnocchi recipe too, as their vegetal characters and acidity would be a good match for the spinach, the lemon and the overall richness of the dish. Another possible partner, though, is Picpoul de Pinet (made from piquepoul blanc in Languedoc, Southern France.) It can vary in terms of depth and ripeness but a defining characteristic is its high acidity and lemon flavours. La Croix Gratiot and Domaine Delsol (€11.99 and €9.99 respectively, are nice, good value examples with bundles of lemony acidity. Semillon is another wine that lends itself well to lemon-flavoured dishes, with enough body and acidity to work with this recipe. Try Chateau d'Argadens Blanc 2010 (€15.50, Mitchell & Son) or McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon (€19.95, Tesco) for a real treat. Tesco also offers its own Finest range Denman Semillon (€9), the excellent value of which I’ve pointed out in this column before. The featured wine, Tim Adams Clare Valley Semillon 2009 (€12.99), is also good value at this price, and a great match with herbaceous character  and ripe citrus and stone fruit flavour.

FEB 2012

(wine matches for Braised Fillet of Pork with Cider and Rhubarb)

Royal Tokaji Dry Furmint 2009


Spring is in the air already and this month’s recipes hit just the right note between comfort and liveliness for the time of year. Pork, cider and rhubarb is a great combination of flavours – as always a pork recipe lends itself well to many red and white wine choices, so it’s a good all-rounder for a dinner party. With the sharp and sweet elements of the dish I’m inclined to want to drink white with it, although something with decent weight. There are many wines that could satisfy here but I have a stock of ‘pork whites’ that I feel have especially complimentary flavours: apple, pear, apricot, pineapple, quince and honeyed character, all work well with most pig meat. There are a number of varietals that give these flavours in generous measures, such as a weighty, traditional-style albarinho from northern Spain, or pinot gris from Alsace. Marsanne is another that produces delicious, age-worthy wines: Tahbilk Marsanne 2008 (€10.80, has juicy ripe apple, melon and apricot flavours, aromatic honeysuckle character and lovely minerality that lasts through the finish. If you can find Tahbilk’s 1927 Old Vines Marsanne (2000) you’ll taste even more layers of fruit, spice and mineral flavours, with great length. Chenin blanc is another king among apply whites and can be made to age with great complexity. The best of the Loire Valley’s chenins can cost you, but Vouvray Domaine du Vieux Vauvert (€12, Superquinn) is a lovely off-dry example, with apples and pears, clean acidity and mineral finish. You could also try Good Hope Stellenbosh Chenin Blanc 2009 (around €11, independents) for a decent fruity South African take on the classic French style. My featured wine is less well known and so all the more worth drawing to your attention. Should you opt to stray from the familiar, you will be rewarded with a serious wine that way over-delivers on price. Crisp apple fruit, quince, camomile and floral notes, a touch of fennel, and a long lean mineral finish make this wine a worthy partner to a beautiful spring pork dish.

Domaine de L’Hortus Grande Cuvée Coteaux du Languedoc 2009


Red is another option for our pork recipe and as with white I tend to choose certain varietals for their specifically pork-friendly character: lighter, softer tannins and juicy sweet red fruit flavours. For this reason I look to pinot noir and grenache-based wines. Merlot could also work but often it’s made in a fuller-bodied style than I’m looking for here. You could also try a Chianti (made from sangiovese) which can have tart red cherry flavour and high acidity, although they tend to be more tannic. My top picks, therefore, would be Felton Road Pinot Noir 2009 (€39.00,, for its generous ripe red berry and bramble fruit, juicy bright acidity, silky tannins and long complex finish;
or Tamar Ridge Devils Corner Pinot Noir 2008 (€14, O’Brien’s) for a more economical Tasmanian example, with ample juicy red fruits, cake spice and acidity to measure up to the dish. The featured red, though, is an outstandingly delicious southern French blend of grenache and syrah, succulent but well-structured with ripe brambleberries, spice and aromatic herbal characters that make it so perfect for any pork recipe. If your budget won’t stretch try Le Loup de L’Hortus Vin de Pays du Val de Montferrand (€11.25) for a less elegant but satisfying taste of this style.

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