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Mary Dowey’s Top Tipples and Trends for Autumnal Wines

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White wines with a touch of saltiness are in high demand – a reaction against decades of sweet, fruity overload, and chiming with current food trends favouring savoury, umami flavours. Although dry sherries make wonderfully salty matches, their head-spinning potential doesn’t suit today’s thirst for lower alcohol wines – but here is an inspired solution. Ube Cota 45 Miraflores (see below) tastes like a zesty manzanilla because it is matured in Sanlucar sherry butts under flor (the yeasty veil that forms over sherry), but it’s unfortified with a civilised alcohol level of 10.5%. Brilliant with olives, salted almonds, fermented foods and – I can promise you – fish and chips. Look out for it in Fish Shop, Benburb Street, the perfect place to go after a Lighthouse Cinema outing, and in their more formal restaurant on Queen Street. Both prove that even tiny restaurants can have thrilling wine lists.

After a patchy Irish presence, a star example of Hunter Valley Semillon, one of my favourite Australian wine styles, is more widely available. Mount Pleasant Elizabeth comes from a winery established by pioneering winemaker Maurice O’Shea in 1921 and under the McWilliams family umbrella since 1941. Like all top Hunter Semillons, it packs layers of lemony intensity into a svelte body. (See below).

Although it’s 20 years since the first Ely Wine Bar opened in Dublin, some readers may not yet realise just how exciting the Ely approach is. About 60 wines are on offer by the glass and the selection keeps evolving as enthusiastic executive wine director Ian Brosnan tracks down worthwhile new discoveries. No wonder the original Ely has won a 2019 Wine Spectator Award for the fifth year in a row, with honourable mentions also for Ely Bar & Grill in the IFSC and Ely 64 in Glasthule. Worth trying right now? Brosnan’s latest passion, Nebbiolo, in younger and more affordable guises than Barolo. A rewarding side-step for Pinot lovers and perfect with comforting autumn dishes.

For a shockingly long time, most Californian wines on sale here were madly expensive icons or big-brand plonk. Now Winelab, the company whose innovative kegs are making it easier for around 400 Irish restaurants to offer decent wines by the glass, leads the charge by importing 50 wines from the Golden State, mostly from small outfits like Hobo, source of the red recommended below.

If I come across one more book claiming to “demystify” wine, I’ll smash my best tasting glass to smithereens. Mystery is part of the magic. Instead of over-analysing we should think about how a wine makes us feel says writer Terry Theise in Wine Reads, a literary anthology of wine writing edited by Jay Mc Inerney (Grove Press UK, £16.99). Spot on. 

FOLK MACHINE PARTS & LABOUR RED, MENDOCINO 2016

A moreish, slightly smoky organic red that’s just right for autumn. Innovative winemaker Kenny Likitprakong includes Carignan, Syrah, Grenache and Barbera in the blend. On sale in many restaurants, also www.stationtostationwine.ie; Redmonds, Dublin 6; First Draft, Dublin 8, about €25.

MOUNT PLEASANT ELIZABETH SEMILLON, HUNTER VALLEY 2016

I’ve loved Elizabeth for decades. Although this vintage still tastes light and citrussy it will age towards toasty richness. Brilliant with Asian fish, chicken, pork. Alcohol: 10%. From Donnybrook Fair outlets; McHughs, Dublin 5; Redmonds, Dublin 6; Dalys, Boyle; Carryout, Killarney, €28-29.

UBE COTA 45 MIRAFLORES

Bracing and saline as a manzanilla sherry but much less alcoholic, this flavoursome white wine is a winner with salty, savoury or fermented foods. Alcohol: 10.5%. From Loose Canon, Dublin 2; Martins, Dublin 3; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6W; First Draft, Dublin 8, about €25.

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