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Green Wines for the Day After St Patrick’s

Copy of the newsletter sent to subscribers to News Talk’s Moncrieff show about the wines tasted.

As a youngster Paddy’s day was, as I recall, just a one day event and wearing shamrock was about as dressy up as it got. These days though it’s morphed into a week long international festival. That means leprechaun outfits everywhere and schools closed Thursday and Friday, turning it into a very long weekend for many with more opportunities to entertain or be entertained by friend and relatives.

Drinks with Irish heritage often form the centrepiece of our celebrations. Aside from beers and spirits, many wine producers throughout the world have strong Irish connections, whether current or dating back to the famous historic wine geese era and Jean talked about some of them last week.

The theme for today’s wines is the national colour  ‘green’, which unlike green lager does not involve food colouring dye but means organic and so called ‘natural wines’. Some say that at the least they may spare you some of the headache.

Organic wines or more correctly wines made from organically grown grapes since there are no EU winemaking laws on the subject eschew the use of artificial herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers. Although it’s not certified winemakers aim to use less than half the levels of the preservative sulphur dioxide permitted in conventional wines.

Natural wines are making waves in several countries, notably France and the USA but less so here, unless I’ve missed it.

It’s a loose knit, uncertified and unstructured movement but what they aim for is to create a wine that represents the character of the place, grapes and growing season as faithfully as possible with as little human intervention as possible. That will mean organically or bidynamically grown grapes. The grapes will be fermented with naturally present yeasts and nothing is added like sugar or acid or tannin. Some even avoid pumps and move wine around by gravity. Filtration is avoided or is very light and added sulphur is kept to as little as a tenth of permitted levels, if added at all. They’ve also created a new category of ‘orange’ wines, which is to say white wines made using the skins as if they were red.

They can be fragile things that need to stored at low temperatures so that they don’t referment in bottle and can  taste more like cider than wine but when they work can have an attractive freshness and personality.

If you want to know more about natural wines a good website to start at is run by French Master of Wine and TV presenter Isabelle Legeron who is organising the UK’s first Natural Wine Fair in London on May 15th.

Wines Tasted on The Show

Organic Okhre Natur Brut Cava M & S €9.49
A great value fizz with notes of buttered toast and citrus fruits. Perfect as an aperitif or if looking for an affordable party wine.

Ch d’Orschwihr Pinot Gris Bollenberg 2009, Alsace, Oddbins* €16.09 (20% off when you buy 6 or more mixed bottles)

Pinot Gris is the French word for Pinot Grigio, only in Alsace it invariably delivers up more flavour than the sometimes anaemic Italian versions. Think of it as ‘The thinking woman’s Pinot Grigio’. This would probably be classified as ‘natural’ as it’s grown from organic grapes and has reduced sulphur use and the label’s printed on recycled paper. It’s fairly full bodied for a white and just off dry rather than bone dry and would suit a wide range of foods and could replace a red even.

*Note Oddbins has been in the news lately as they have had financial problems. They have closed 39 stores in the UK are trying to reach agreement with creditors that will allow them to continue trading, having just offered 21p in the £ to clear debts. Their 4 Dublin stores are still open but are up for sale. If a suitable buyer isn’t found they say that they’ll keep them as part of the group.

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