Only the Christmas table surpasses Easter in the 'good food and good wine stakes'. However the lovely thing about the dinner at Easter is that lamb usually steps in and replaces turkey - good news for structured reds and that is just what this is post all about.
The classic accompaniment is red Bordeaux and personally I would look to the softer, plumper wines of Bordeaux’s right bank: Pomerol, St. Emilion and its relatives or good Fronsac. Château de Saint-Pey 2006 (€16.99) from St. Emilion will suit traditional roast lamb perfectly; very smooth, pure St. Emilion but with decent structure - it is particularily good after half an hour in a carafe/decanter. However go up €3 and Château Claymore 2009from Lussac St. Emilion (was €29.99) offers further richness in its layers of dark fruit and mouthwatering savouriness.
The classic choice is is not all about Bordeaux as the other classic lamb friendly wine is Rioja. The perceived sweetness of most Riojas brought about by extended ageing in American oak is a lovely foil to roast lamb, especialy when this includes rosemary and garlic. Monte Real Rioja Reserva €13.99 (was €18.99) easily fits the bill, it has the lovely 'vanilla meets berried fruit' character of traditional styles but there is extra richness and indeed more of a dark berry finish than any of its contemporaries.
One of my own new favourites and indeed the wine I will be drinking this Easter is the terrific Barbera Crocera Barbera d’Asti Superiore €10.99 (was €14.99) from the Il Cascinone estate. Made by multi-award winning Piedmont winemaker Claudio Manera this is gorgeous Barbera. A wine that is richly textured and gives up masses of dark cherry/plum fruit but keeps very fresh with its perfectly balanced acidity. Magnificent food wine that will not only suit lamb but can work well with roast poultry in rich gravy.
Lastly for fans of more fruit driven New World wines (Australia/the Americas/South Africa etc.) this is a good time to treat yourselves to a premium version of this these fruiter wines. Bethany Cabernet/Merlot €12.99 (was €19.99) is sumptuous; you can look forward to plenty of very pure, blackberry fruit wrapped up in the sweet spice that American oak barrels gives. Brilliantly made wine from winemaker/owner Geoff Schrapel this silky red - unlike many new world wines - improves with a bit of aeration in a decanter.
All wines available in all stores and offers finish on Sunday 7th of April
“Wine-Stars Competition hailed as ‘revolutionary'” - Decanter Magazine
On Sunday morning at the crack of dawn the O’Briens wine buying team will board a plane for Dusseldorf in Germany to attend Prowein - the most important trade fair of the year.
Meetings will be had with winemakers, new vintages will be tasted, ideas will be shared and most importantly new wines will be sought for our customers which will appear over the course of 2013.
To that end this year will be slightly different because for the first time I will be involved in judging at the revolutionary Wine Stars wine competition.
This competition has been staged in London, Bordeaux, China, Argentina, Miami, Brasil and Korea and this will be the first time that an Irish retailer has been asked to judge.
The object of the competiton is to discover and launch the most exciting new wineries into new countries from a list of eighty or so entrants.
An extensive questionnaire has to be completed by the wineries along with tastings and a Dragons Den meets X-Factor style presentation to pitch their wine.
Wines will be judged on factors such as price, packaging, quality and innovation and of course the tastings so watch this space to see if any of the Wine Star winners will make their way to the O’Briens shelfs over the coming months.
20% Off All Italian Wines This Weekend!
Not only is it St. Patricks weekend but with Ireland v Italy on Saturday, 20% Italian wines in all our stores and the first of this year’s “Monday’s Off” the scene is set for a great weekend. What you will find below are the ‘Unmissables’ in our 20% off Italy, cherry picked because they are terrific wines that show off everything that is enticing, enriching and rewarding about Italian wine.
The Juicy Reds: you don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy great Italian wines and one of the best ways to get as much wine for your money as possible is to look outside the best known names. Sicily has for a while now been providing the wine world with some off the best values we have seen in years. Il Meridione Nero d’Avola (now €8.79) is just such a wine, packed with lovely ripe fruit, decent acidity and freshness, great little all-round red.
Another region that is a great spot for medium bodied, fruit-forward reds is Abruzzo and La Piuma Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (now €8.79) is a textb ook example. This is soft in tannin with very pure ripe cherry and sweet plum fruit, perfectly suited to a good stone baked pizza and dangerously easy to drink.
World Class Whites: It is no secret that Pinot Grigio is massively popular and Veneto in north Italy is the model that everyone strives to emulate. Pinot Grigio here ranges from simple, straightforward wine up to premium estate wines where fruit clarity and purity are paramount. Rizzardi Pinot Grigio (now €9.99) is most definitely in the latter category. A single estate Pinot Grigio that epitomises everything that is appealing about great PG; that delicious, concentrated ripe peach/pear fruit and a moderate but refreshing bite. Loves grilled trout/bass or fresh pasta with wild mushrooms.
The Sunday roast however calls for a different style and one of my out and out favourite Italian whites is from the far south west; Terredora Greco di Tufo (now €13.59). From volcanic soils in the region of Campania this incredible wine has layer upon layer of intense frit undercut by unparalleled minerality – it is a staggeringly good wine that can hold its own against the best in the world.
The Big Reds: 20% off brings some serious red wines into play and one of these which should not be missed this weekend is the Campogiovanni Rosso di Montalcino (now €15.19) from producer San Felice. This has its origins in the same vineyards as its big brother the excellent Campogiovanni Brunello di Montalcino (now €32.80). It doesn’t get the same ageing but delivers some real Brunello character at a much lower price. Let it breathe for an hour and match up with roast beef/lamb and you may well find yourself becoming a follower.
It would be crime for me not to point out the superb Musella Ripasso (now €16.79), few Ripassos can match this in terms of sheer opulence and depth of fruit. Re-fermented on the pommace of Musella’s Amarone this carries with it a considerable accent from its illustrious benefactor. A good rib-eye/sirloin steak and this rich, dark cherry beauty are more than well suited.
This is only a smattering of what is on offer, so get into the stores or check out the website and you are sure to find an Italian that hits the right note. Offers last until 10pm Monday.
This weekend sees three serious red wines hit our stores. All have a B in their title and well, that’s about the only tenuous connection between them - apart from the fact that I would happily take any of them with me to a dinner out.
The first of the trio is the epitome of modern, fruit-rich Bordeaux. Huet Fûts de Chêne (€9.99) * is from producer Raymond Huet, employing the use of Michel Rolland - probably the best known winemaker in the world - to make a wine well worth seeking out. The big heavy bottle prepares you for the style of this dense, chunky Bordeaux, but there is quality to the fruit and complexity; it’s not all about big flavours.
Decant for an hour and line this up with a decent rib-eye/sirloin steak.
If that doesn’t float your boat then we have one of the most electric, intense Italian reds we have tasted in the last 12 months. The wine is called Crocero Barbera Asti €10.99 (was €14.99) with Barbera being the grape and Asti the region. Rarely have we seen a Barbera this concentrated and multi-layered, it is a gorgeous red that should excite not just fans of good Italian reds but anyone who likes good reds full stop.
This will be is stunning matched up with lamb ragú or braised beef stew.
Lastly a wine that should be bought by the case and stashed away to be lovingly depleted over the next year or so; Bethany Cabernet/Merlot €12.99 (was €19.99). This has always been one of Australian Geoff Schrapel’s (owner/winemaker) best wines. Although there is lots of very pure, blackberried fruit this is no jammy monster there is quite a degree of freshness and elegance to it. Oak barrels play a supporting role here managing not to overpower the wine. This is a beauty and as I say above it has staying power and will continue to improve and develop over the next few years.
Your palate will thank you for matching this with simply cooked duck breast and a morel sauce.
All 3 are in stores now although the Bordeaux is only on special until March 19th (the rest until April 7th). Take your pick, all 3 over-deliver and should not disappoint.
* was €16.99
With so many wines in the range I had forgotten just how good this little beauty is. A recent tasting of it brought it right back into the spotlight. There are few wines made anywhere on the planet that can match up to Luzon for sheer indulgent, hedonistic flavour at a reasonable price.
Luzon (by Bodegas Luzon) hails from Jumilla in the far south-east of Spain (see map) and it is a stunning, richly textured blend of Monastrell and Syrah. No oak in sight here, this is all about upfront fruit, however that doesn't mean its simple stuff. Luzon is one of those wines that as it opens up it reveals it's many layers. Touches of the savouryabout it aligned with spice and dark fruit compote all vying for attention and remaining all the while super smooth on the palate.
Any fan of good, full-flavoured reds should give this a try, it brings to mind premium Rhône reds from Rasteau or Gigondas but with a most definite Spanish accent. As I have mentioned above giving this wine a little air really brings out its best. Match up with slowly braised lamb shanks or lamb shoulder with thyme and garlic and enjoy.
Still at €9.99 until the 8th of March.