A fishing Albarino for less than 10€ and a Chablis that is worth it
Bastille Day has just passed and this week’s column is therefore entirely devoted to the mother country, France. I use the expression “mother country” because without France and its dedication to the joys of the table, the world of wine would be completely different.
It’s fashionable to criticize French food and wine, but it’s usually done by people who haven’t bothered to pay attention. Almost all the grapes you’ve heard of originated in France, modern winemaking techniques largely began there, but it was also in France that the ‘Natural Wine‘ movement began (in the Loire and Beaujolais ).
The first real wine classification rules were created there in the 1930s and have since been copied by everyone. Many of the most expensive wines and styles of wine in the world are French, and yet France also produces an ocean of regional wines and easy-drinking varietals to match whatever is at the lower end of the market.
And yet consumers are still a little afraid of France, and it’s true that you will have to do a little learning to make the most of the French department in your local off-licence. An off-license with knowledgeable staff is probably the best place to start as it will take some practice to remember that Fleurie and Morgon are (high quality) Beaujolais Cru villages and Vacqueyras, Gigondas and Cairanne are Cru Côte-du-Villages of the Rhône near Châteauneuf-du-Pape using the same grape varieties.
My selections below have no particular theme other than the kind of French wines I drank in the last month. The Rhône is present, as is the Loire and of course Languedoc, the most economical wine region in France with as many small innovative producers as there are huge cooperatives. Laurent Miquel often appears here as they can manage to do it on a large scale and keep the quality high but also make fine wines at unbelievable prices like the Caza Viel Saint-Chinian currently in Dunnes for less than a dozen.
Also below is a Chablis I have never featured before from Mitchells. You might think €26 is expensive, it’s not. There really is no place that can rival Chablis for such pure and pristine expressions of Chardonnay. The world knows this and can therefore simply raise prices if the harvest is cut in half due to hail (as often happens). So try some of the wines below and explore the regions of France, I promise you it will be worth it. Long live France!
The entire Laurent Miquel range in Dunnes is reduced until the August bank holiday weekend with all wines under €9 and some under €8 like their perfumed creamy Pére et Fils Chardonnay-Viognier. LM was the first to grow Albariño in the region and the wine gets better every year – it’s peachy and fruity with a pleasant weight and texture and a tangy, salty citrus finish.
This cheerful rosé is from the fine Sancerroise house of Henri Bourgeois – if you can expand on that, the €26 Henri Bourgeois Sancerre rosé is also excellent and in another league. It is, however, great fun and perfect for sipping in the garden – packed with strawberry and gooseberry aromas, ripe red fruit flavors and a dry, elegant finish with some lingering strawberries and raspberries on the palate.
It’s hard to go wrong with Picpoul de Pinet, despite the Languedoc heat, this varietal always tastes fresh and crisp while the floral and fruity elements make it a perfect match for a bowl of mussels or any light summer dish. . It’s fairly new to O”Briens and on special for the summer – aromas of peaches and lilies, supple pear on the palate and lemon-lime freshness on the finish.
Cairanne was promoted to Cru Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages status in 2016 and not before time. Boutinot saw the potential of the village early on and has managed to buy a lot of old vines in recent years. It’s beautifully drinkable with silky blackberries and ripe cherries with a smoky, spicy edge – elegant and textured, fruity and layered.
I haven’t featured a Chablis in a while and this is a special offer at Mitchells from €29. Chablis prices are likely to go up again, so it’s a bargain. Light straw color with green highlights, aromas of stones, lemon zest and ripe apple with a touch of almond, white fruits layered on the palate with creamy pears and a chalky lemony freshness on the finish. Elegance personified.
This producer is imported exclusively by Whelehan’s and I have already recommended their Pouilly Fuissé Vielles Vignes (€33) which is a little richer. With a south-facing plot, it is for sale (from €25) and at an excellent price for the quality. Aromas of hazelnut, peach and pear with herbs, layered and complex, with a pleasant richness of creamy apple and nice length and balance.
The venerable Mitchell & Son turn 135 this year and have once again teamed up with Midleton Distillery to release a new Spot whisky. The Limited Edition Gold Spot is 9 years old and aged first in Sherry and Port casks, then finished in Bordeaux and Port casks – the latter being a first in the Spot range.
Aromas of pears, apple drops and vanilla plus cedar and spice – fruity and toasty on the palate with lingering dried fruit and complex spice and fruit notes on the finish. It’s simply stunning and worth seeking out before it’s gone.