Liquid Curiosities: Wine editor MARY DOWEY on fine cava, the gin bandwagon and natural wines …
How exhilarating it is that, despite information overload, a wine region can still emerge from obscurity and become high fashion. The JURA, tucked between Burgundy and Switzerland and barely known five years ago, is having a moment – appearing on all the best wine lists. In the same week recently I spotted its bottlings in Tasmania and Temple Bar.
Its fame rests on VIN JAUNE, an extraordinary white wine made from the Savagnin grape following a method similar to that of sherry but without fortification. Enthusiastic importers recently held a lunch in Dax to show just how glorious this nutty but refreshing treat can be, especially alongside the Jura’s other famous speciality, Comté cheese. Especially delectable were DOMAINE TISSOT ARBOIS VIN JAUNE EN SPOIS 2011 (in Etto restaurant) and DOMAINE BERTHET-BONDET CHÂTEAU CHALON 2009 (Mitchell & Son, IFSC, Dublin 1; Corkscrew, Dublin 2; Green Man, Dublin 6W, about €75). I also loved some younger, simpler Savagnins. See 3 Wines to Try.
As Ireland’s thirst for FINE CAVA intensifies, it was a pleasure to rediscover the fabulous fizz of RECAREDO with Alex Bautista at Terroirs, celebrating 25 years in Donnybrook. Established in 1924, this third-generation cava house was the first to embrace biodynamics. It remains a torchbearer for excellence, its cavas exuding purity and verve as well as the toasty richness that comes from exceptionally long ageing. Of the three wines I tasted, SERRAL DEL VELL BRUT NATURE GRAN RESERVA 2008 (€59.50), aged on the yeast lees for over eight years, was the most thrilling, with savoury charm and endless length. Lighter in style and on the pocket but still impressive was TERRERS BRUT NATURE 2012 (€39.50), lees-aged for almost five years. Expensive … yes, but it’s high time we banished the notion that cava is supposed to be a cheap substitute for champagne.
It’s an entirely different drink and at this quality level beats plenty of champagnes to a pulp.
Although Bordeaux is a popular wine match for spring lamb, my Easter table this year will see the joint accompanied by RIOJA. (I’ve never forgotten a week-long visit to Spain’s preeminent wine region during which lamb was served ten times.) Rioja sales increased significantly here in 2017-18 especially in the Reserva category, Ireland’s favourite. Pink lamb tastes best with a younger, less intense CRIANZA. See 3 Wines to Try.
The gin bandwagon continues to pick up pace with new brands emerging in the most unlikely places. (Bastien Mariani, export manager for Champagne Bollinger, told me a few weeks ago that he has created BACCAE GIN in Paris with a pal – a first for the French capital.) With gin sales in Ireland zooming up 31.6 per cent in 2017, it’s no surprise that enthusiasts here now have their own tasting event. Gin Experience Dublin is the brainchild of Ally Alpine, owner of the Celtic Whiskey Shop in Dawson Street, Dublin 2 (which doubles as Wines on the Green, a first-rate wine shop). This year’s ginfest will be held in the Printworks, Dublin Castle, on Friday April 12 (6-9.30pm) and Saturday April 13 (1-4.30pm and 5.30-9pm). Over 40 producers, many from boutique Irish distilleries, will pour their precious spirits in 85 versions, some of which you will also be able to sample in exotic cocktails or as food partners. Tickets are €40, plus booking fee, from ginexperiencedublin.com or the Celtic Whiskey Shop. €10 from each ticket sale will go to support the charity Debra Ireland.
A decade ago, wine-producing countries were just waking up to CHINA’S NEW WINE LOVE AFFAIR. (Prominent Bordeaux châteaux passed into Chinese hands and Wine Australia closed its marketing office in Ireland to free up funds for one in China – to cite just two indicators of this trend.) Today China seems more intent on production than importation, seeing the wine industry as a key opportunity to transform its rural economy. The province of NINGXIA, next to the Gobi desert, is its surprising, fast-expanding nucleus. About 40,000 hectares under vine are supplying close to 200 wine estates, many with women at the helm. Their best Bordeaux-style reds are garnering praise: I bet we’ll see more than a handful here soon.
Keen to know more about organic, biodynamic and natural wines? (Who isn’t?) Sign up for The Real Wine Fair at the Chocolate Factory, King’s Inn Street, Dublin 1 on Wednesday May 14 (open from 4.30pm). The 25 producers present will include several whose wines have been a huge hit at THE GLOSS wine dinners in The Merrion hotel, including Austria’s Judith Beck, Spain’s Eleonora Infuso and Italy’s Elena Pantaleoni. Tickets €20 from co-organisers LE CAVEAU (www.lecaveau.ie) or eventbrite.ie.
At an extravagant wine dinner hosted by FINDLATER in Temple Bar’s Rosa Madre, one of the younger, less complex wines, a VALPOLICELLA from SERÈGO ALIGHIERI, matched more dishes with ease than many infinitely grander bottles. Delicious for spring/summer too. See 3 Wines to Try. Rosa Madre no longer offers Prosecco by the glass, by the way – a drastic step for an Italian restaurant. Further proof that Prosecco’s often mediocre bubble has burst?
3 wines to try
Rolet Arbois Naturé du Jura 2016. Citrussy and very slightly toasty, this is wonderful with fish or chicken in a cream sauce. Or young Comté. Alcohol 13%. From Fallon & Byrne, Dublin 2; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6W; 64 Wine, Glasthule; Ely Wine Store, Maynooth; Red Island, Skerries, about €25.50.
Finca La Emperatriz Rioja Crianza 2015. Fresh, silky, poised, pure … so say my tasting notes for this Easter lamb partner from a cool estate in Rioja Alta. Good value, I might add. Alcohol 14%. From Corkscrew, Dublin 2; Donnybrook Fair, Dublin 4; Drinkstore, Dublin 7; Bradleys, Cork, €20-22.
MontePiazzo Valpolicella Classico Superiore, Serègo Alighieri 2015. If Giorgio Armani were to turn his hand to Valpolicella, it might turn out like this – elegant, versatile and hinting at richness. Alcohol 13.5%. From McHughs, Dublin 5; Grapevine, Dalkey; Alex Findlater & Co, Limerick; Bradleys, Cork, about €27.
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