Rioja is a wine that marries brilliantly with food, but these five restaurants have nailed the perfect pairings, says Katy McGuinness …
Jacobs on the Mall, Cork
It’s over 20 years since the McCarthy family opened their restaurant in what was once Cork’s Turkish Baths. Sourcing many of its local, free-range and organic ingredients from the English Market, Ricky Nolan’s kitchen is known for producing good, honest dishes with flavour always to the fore. As the evenings get colder, the Conde de Los Andes 2015 is a full-bodied winter warmer Rioja that is powerful, tight, rich and restrained all at the same time. It’s perfect with the fillet of venison with fondant potato, roast carrots, parsnips and shallots served with gooseberries and a port jus. www.jacobsonthemall.com
Square Restaurant, Dundalk, Co Louth
Conor Halpenny’s contemporary Irish restaurant offers a seasonal menu focussed on the very best of local ingredients, many sourced from the Boyne Valley. A favourite wine is the Bodegas Paco Garcia Rioja Crianza 2017, a modern Rioja showing prominent fruit on the nose, with plump, sweet notes, and well-placed oak. On the palate, the wine is nicely cushioned and well-rounded, yet slightly chewy, with generous fruit and juicy tannins. This is a real crowd-pleaser, says Halpenny, whose customers find it “very easy to enjoy”. It pairs well with the autumnal dish of venison with crushed pumpkin, cavolo nero and pickled elderberries. www.squarerestaurant.ie
Chapter One by Mickael Viljanen, Dublin 1
Earlier this year Finnish chef Mickael Viljanen took over from Ross Lewis in the kitchen, but while the style of food may have changed the cellar remains one of the finest in the country. The Remelluri Reserva 2013, the estate’s flagship wine, from one of Rioja’s most respected producers, pairs beautifully with Viljanen’s signature hare dishes – Roast Saddle with Parsley, Pear and Timut Pepper with Sauce Poivrade, and the decadent (and unmissable) Hare á La Royale. The blend of 85% tempranillo, 10% grenache and 5% graciano is rich and savoury, showcasing ripe dark fruits with real depth and complexity, yet at the same time demonstrating a lovely purity of fruit. www.chapteronerestaurant.com
Etto, Dublin 2
Etto is one of Dublin’s cult restaurants, loved as much by locals as it is by a host of famous visitors including Nigella Lawson and Yotam Ottolenghi. Simon Barrett and Liz Matthews say their favourite Rioja from the restaurant’s list is Artuke’s Pies Negros 2019, a blend of 90% and 10% Graciano, from Rioja Alavesa, the Basque region of Rioja. Simon and Liz visited the small, family-run winery in 2019 and spent a day with the inspirational winemaker, Arturo de Miguel, loving the balance they found in his wines and the fact that they are not dominated by oak. This wine, says Liz, has juicy dark fruit on the palate, aromas of blackberries, and a long, refreshing finish. It pairs well with seasonal game dishes such as roast Brittany rabbit leg, morteau sausage, summer truffle, carrot and tarragon, or Etto’s signature côte de boeuf, which is always on the menu. www.etto.ie
Piglet, Dublin 2
Enrico Fantasia’s pick from Piglet’s extensive wine list is Rioja Viña Ilusion 2017 from Alonso Etayo, made from 100% tempranillo, which he has had on the list for years and says is a favourite with customers and staff. The biodynamic wine is made without any chemical additives. Enrico says it’s “juicy, textured and addictively yummy” and goes beautifully with a dish of pork ragu with smoked paprika served with casarecce pasta and aged Parmesan, and also works well with lamb. www.pigletwinebar.ie
For more information see www.buyriojawineireland.com.
Sign up to our MAILING LIST now for a roundup of the latest fashion, beauty, interiors and entertaining news from THE GLOSS MAGAZINE’s daily dispatches.