Never the RIGHT BOTTLE to hand? Adopt CLOTHES-BUYING TACTICS, says wine editor MARY DOWEY …
Shopping for wine can easily seem daunting. It’s an assault course around so many regions, grape varieties and vintages, not to mention producers with unfathomable names, that no wonder most of us approach it either by picking up the same old bottle every time, or by throwing ourselves on the mercy of the nearest retailer half an hour before guests arrive.
How to make the process more streamlined – and more fun? Create a small stash of wines that will see you through the next few months in the same way that you might plan your summer wardrobe. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Stick to three broad categories – everyday basics, smart casuals and dressy items. Then, no matter what the occasion, you’ll have a suitable bottle to hand.
EVERYDAY BASICS under €15
A few inexpensive bottles always come in handy – e.g. to cheer up a Tuesday pizza without inducing undue guilt. Basic shouldn’t mean boring, though, so don’t automatically reach (again) for over-played Chilean Sauvignon Blanc or Argentine Malbec. Portugal, Spain and the Languedoc are all terrific sources of interesting wines at easy prices, including summery whites and smooth young reds. North-east Italy can also be plundered for zippy whites and southern Italy for more swaggering reds.
While supermarkets and multiples (like O’Briens) may be fertile shopping territory, sometimes with decent special offers, don’t forget that all worthwhile wine shops and online sellers offer carefully chosen budget bottles too.
SMART CASUALS €15-25
My favourite category, as with clothes. The middle of the market is a mixture of natty bottles and disappointing duds requiring a good rummage with a sharp eye. It’s a much more fruitful hunting ground than Everyday Basics, though. Irish excise duty of €3.19 on every bottle (the highest in the EU) plus 23 per cent VAT mean that many cheap wines are of shoddy quality.
What are 2018 smart choices? Austria continues its upward trajectory with refreshing whites and juicy reds that are perfect for summer drinking. Loire reds like Saumur-Champigny are red summer charmers too. Beaujolais is back with a bang – high-quality wine, I mean, rather than mass-produced stuff like fruit juice. And Chianti Classico, I’ve discovered from a return visit, is better than it’s been in years.
DRESSING UP over €25
Consider a couple of polished examples of Pinot Noir for the posh end of your summer mini-cellar. Beauties from Burgundy or New Zealand – Pinot’s two top territories – may well cost €25 or more. I love silky, mature Bordeaux at this time of year too – unbeatable with a simply grilled steak or duck breast.
As for special-occasion whites, the choice stretches from Margaret River in Western Australia (superb Sauvignon-Semillon blends) through new-wave South Africa (seriously stylish Chenin Blanc) to the cream of food-friendly white Rioja (look out for Viña Tondonia or Olivier Riviere). And – it simply can’t be bypassed – white Burgundy too.
Three wines to try
Pianeta Organic Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie 2017
Inexpensive Pinot Grigio usually has as much character as a glass of water – but not this organic number, despite its knockdown price. With refreshing citrus and floral notes, it offers purity and presence with an almost chewy finish. Alcohol: 12%. From Aldi, €7.49.
Syrah D’Ogier, Collines Rhodaniennes 2015
My go-to smart-casual red, smooth, pure and nicely concentrated, from Northern Rhône star Stéphane Ogier. Alcohol: 12.5%. From Searsons, Monkstown and www.searsons.com; Donnybrook Fair, Dublin 4; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock; 64 Wine, Glasthule; McCambridges, Galway, €21.95.
Akarua ‘Rua’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016
A silky seductive New Zealand Pinot wafting out aromas of red summer berries. Alcohol: 14%. From Mitchell & Son, IFSC, Dublin 1, Glasthule and Avoca; Baggot St Wines, Dublin 4; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock; World Wide Wines, Waterford; 1601, Kinsale; www.wineonline.ie, usually €29.99.
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