Irish tax rates on wine are the highest in Europe, so it can seem more difficult to find true value here than our continental neighbours. However, the O'Briens Wine Team travel all over the world to ensure we work with small, quality-obsessed producers that offer great value for money and farm their land in a sustainable manner. Being a family-run company, it is a core philosophy of O'Briens, and our Wine Director Lynne Coyle MW.
As wine becomes more popular in growing economies, particularly Russia and China, the price of many of the best-known European Appellations have seen a steady increase. Other pressures in recent years, such as devastating hail in the Loire Valley and Burgundy, have reduced supply just as the demand there increases. Other issues that have affected grape quality and yields across European vineyards in recent years include frost in winter, heatwaves in summer and mildew through the growing season. So, if you have seen the prices of your favourite wine styles creep out of reach in the past few years, these are all contributing factors.
However, as important as Appellations are to winemaking, there are often alternatives to your favourite wines. Learn the grape and style you enjoy and try some alternative wines that will save you money. You may surprise yourself and find you like these new wines just as much as you old favourites!
So, this week I am going to share my inside track on one such example. As much as I love Sancerre, I can't afford to drink them too often, so here is the wine I reach for when I'm in the mood for an excellent quality Loire Valley white that offers good value.
Best Sancerre Alternatives
Sancerre is one of the most popular white wines from France. Made in the eastern Loire Valley from the Sauvignon Blanc grape variety, the best examples display fresh, zesty citrus fruits and a characteristic flinty minerality on the finish.
As the best Sancerre's unavoidably become more expensive, many winemakers are looking for sites in the valley that share similar soils and climate, that fall outside the Appellation. These wines won't have that prestigious Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé badge of honour, so are not as much in demand, keeping their prices low. However, some of these wines offer exceptional value for money, and are made by the same winemakers. In the same wineries!
Winemaker Eric Louis crafts some of our most popular prestigious Loire wines, including the sublime Sophie Bertin Sancerre. But he also produces wines outside the better-known appellations.
His Robert Cantin Les Grèzes wine is produced from Sauvignon Blanc vines that lie slightly outside the borders of the Sancerre Appellation, but grow in similar limestone soil and in the same climate. Treated with the same meticulous care and attention as any of his more expensive cuvées, winemaker Eric Louis crafts this in his modern stainless steel winery to create a zesty and fresh wine with a terrific flinty finish that offers a perfect alternative to Sancerre at half the price!
Loire Sauvignon Blanc Food Pairing:
The clean acidity and zesty citrus fruits would pair perfectly with a steaming bowl of fresh mussels.
O'Briens Wine Style Guide
This is just one example of how buying smart can open you up to good value wine alternatives. To help you pick others, we have produced the handy O'Briens Wine Style Guide that will help you pick out something to suit your palate.
Simply look on any of our point of sale tags and it will have one of these symbols displayed.
Then look for other wines from the O'Briens range with the same symbol and they are likely to suit your palate. Easy!
Our friendly and knowledgeable teams in-store will gladly talk you through how to get the most from the O'Briens Wine Style Guide.
Please note: All prices correct at time of publication. For the most up to date prices please contact your local store or online www.obrienswine.ie.