Reading Between The Wines

Down with PACKAGING WASTE … deliverance from dull Sauvignon and DRINKING JAPANESEMARY DOWEY rounds up the latest wine news …

Good ideas can take time to mature, like good wine. WINELAB, the wine-on-tap company set up by RONAN FARRELL and RICHIE BYRNE in 2013, has hit its stride this year, offering 45 wines in recyclable 20-litre kegs to around 400 customers including high-profile Etto, All-Ireland winner in the 2018 Irish Restaurant Awards. “The keg is popular for wines by the glass for two reasons,” explains Farrell. “It reduces packaging waste by 95 per cent and it keeps wines fresh for 60 days.” Diligent homework surely helped to make this idea fly. After working in the Irish wine trade, Farrell studied oenology at UC Davis, one of the world’s most prestigious wine schools. Research then led him to a Dutch manufacturer supplying lightweight PET kegs to craft brewers. The rest you can guess. An unexpected bonus is that wines destined for kegs are made with less sulphur dioxide than those going into bottle – manna to our growing band of natural wine fans. The next step, already underway according to Farrell, is to add swisher wines to the range and sign up more high-end restaurants. “We have UK partners who sell into Michelin-starred Chez Bruce in London,” he adds to prove it can be done. Meanwhile some WineLab reliables are now retailing here in refillable bottles. See below.

So common has SAUVIGNON BLANC become (in both senses – ubiquitous and undistinguished) that it rarely provokes excitement, let alone enticement. With every producer in the world apparently determined to replicate the grapefruit and gooseberry flavours popularised by New Zealand, millions of bottles all taste much the same. Thankfully LUC DE CONTI, proprietor of organic (soon biodynamic) Château TOUR DES GENDRES in Bergerac, conjures a dazzling exception. Made partly from the fruit of old vines, his MOULIN DES DAMES 2010, fermented in large oak casks, is luscious and gloriously individualistic. “I like Sauvignon Blanc that doesn’t smell like Sauvignon Blanc,” he says. Precisely. See below.

Japanese wine in Ireland – surely we mean SAKE? Well yes, up to a point, with a growing number of Irish wine importers offering top-notch bottlings based on fermented rice. But our fascination in the west with all things Japanese is underscored even more dramatically by the arrival in MARKS & SPENCER of a conventional white wine made from grapes grown close to Mount Fuji. SOL LUCET KOSHU 2017 is intriguing – particularly since high rainfall prevents Japan from producing wine on a wide scale – and delicious. See below.

Sake will feature in the diverse drinks pairing on offer with the tasting menu at AIMSIR, the restaurant opening soon at CLIFF AT LYONS, along with beer, cider and NATURAL WINES. These are favourites with hip sommeliers everywhere so brush up on organic, biodynamic and minimal-intervention winemaking essentials lest you seem hopelessly behind the curve. One useful starting point is LOOSE CANON CHEESE & WINE on Dublin’s Drury Street. From the team behind cult café MEET ME IN THE MORNING, the new place offers about 50 natural wines.

A cupboard clear-out is in order. Current thinking on WINE GLASSES is that one (generous) size fits all. Good wines of every kind, including champagnes and sherries, benefit from exposure to the air by swirling, so flutes, coupes and other mean vessels should be ditched. In tune with the times, British wine writer JANCIS ROBINSON recently collaborated with glass designer RICHARD BRENDON to launch her own solo model, the 1 Wine Glass. Made from thin, hand-blown glass it looks exquisite and is apparently dishwasher-proof, phew. £200 for six; £70 for two, www.richardbrendon.com.

VINTAGE POSTERS celebrating alcoholic beverages are in high demand to judge from headspinning prices at a recent auction at Swann Galleries in New York. For those who might prefer to buy a cellar’s worth of wine rather than fork out up to $20,000 for original advertisements such as LEONETTO CAPPIELLO’S exuberant Carnaval/ Vinho do Porto (1911), the option of buying a present-day print remains. (Just make sure it has been produced by the high-resolution giclée process.) On art.co.uk, a reproduction of Cappiello’s Carnaval poster costs around £60.

It can be rewarding to discover affordable bottles with an impeccable pedigree, even if the wines which forged that pedigree remain out of reach to ordinary mortals. So it is with TRIENNES, the Provence property developed by Jacques Seysses of DOMAINE DUJAC and Aubert de Villaine of DOMAINE DE LA ROMANÉE-CONTI, two of Burgundy’s grandest estates. Organic and transitioning to biodynamics, the Triennes wines have substance and style – especially the poised SAINTE FLEUR VIOGNIER Vin de Pays du Var 2015, an ideal white for autumn drinking. Usually €24, on special offer during September at €19 from leading independents including Corkscrew, Dublin 2 and Higgins, Dublin 14.

Latest research shows that millennials are drinking less but spending more on better wine. They are also more confident and more curious, suggesting a ready market for THE NEW WINE RULES by JON BONNÉ (Quadrille, £10), an up-to-date, down-to-earth handbook. I applaud Rule 39, “The best time to buy a wine is when it’s out of style”. A WINE COOLNESS MATRIX shows what’s hot and not. Time to hunt white Bordeaux …

3 Wines to Try

VINI STOCCO REFOSCO 2016

A WineLab hit from the start, this likeable north Italian red is earthy and food–friendly. Alcohol: 13%. From deli section, Dollard & Co, Dublin 2, 50cl refillable bottle €9; also restaurants including Etto, Dublin 2; Dollard & Co, Dublin 2; Zero Zero Pizza, Dun Laoghaire; Crust Pizzeria, Waterford.

CHÂTEAU TOUR DES GENDRES MOULIN DES DAMES BERGERAC 2010

Luc de Conti’s wonderfully sumptuous wine proves that Sauvignon needn’t be a one-trick pony. Its pineapple, lemon, ginger and butter notes suit assertive food – maybe Asian fish or chicken or (better still) truffles. Alcohol: 14%. From www.lecaveau.ie, €29.75.

SOL LUCET KOSHU 2017

Fresh, delicate, elegant – thoroughly Japanese, in other words – this smart white is made from Japan’s leading grape variety, Koshu, in its main wine region Yamanashi near Mount Fuji. Perfect with sushi or other light dishes with clean flavours. Alcohol 11.5%. From Marks & Spencer selected outlets, €20.50.

@MaryDowey

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