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Give The Merlot A Miss

newsletter to subscribers to Moncrieff show:
Movies & Booze on Newstalk 106-108 FM’s on the Moncrieff Show,  22
nd July 2011

Give The Merlot A Miss

Despite this week’s proposed interest rate cut the economy is still in trouble and money is tight which may be enough to make you turn to drink. And if you do, the odds are, increasingly, that you’ll spend under a tenner on a style of wine you know and have tried before. It’s understandable. Most people drink within the comfort zone of the tried and tested. I mean, if you know you like Merlot why would you bother picking up a bottle of Mourvèdre or Monestrell even if you can pronounce them confidently. Wine can be a risky purchase; a waste of money if it turns out you don’t like it.

To me that seems nuts. Do you watch the same DVDs again and again or read the same book again and again? Do you even eat the same food every day? No because that would be dull and variety is the spice of life. Wine is a little luxury, a window on a different world, a different country and culture and flavour. It can be a bit of fun in these difficult times.

So red wine lovers my suggestion is that you put aside that Cabernet, Shiraz, Merlot or Pinot Noir and try something new. You’ll find wines in France like Grenache or Mourvèdre but Southern European wines is the section in the off-licence to seek out.

It’s hard to pick up a bottle of Portuguese that isn’t made of something you’ve never heard of with Touriga Nacional from the Douro being a consistent winner in my book. Across the border in Spain many of us will be familiar with their main red Tempranillo but a exciting new wine on export markets is the Mencia grape from the North West.  And how many Italian grape varieties have people heard of? Sangiovese or Barbera maybe. My suggestion is to look for varitetal wines from the South and islands made from grapes like Nero d’Avola or Primitivo.

There’s a whole world out there with hundreds of grape varieties to try. I’d love to recommend the red wines of Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, Greece, Bulgaria or Romania but you’re unlikely to find them. Oh and don’t forget Carmenère from Chile or Malbec from Argentina, both of which are easy enough to find.

My advice is to be bold to expand your repertoire and pick up a bottle of something you’ve never had before in your local supermarket or better still go into your local independent offie or an O’Briens or an O’Donovans and get talking to a passionate expert who will be only too delighted to share their experience with you.

Wines Tasted on Today’s Show

Tesco Finest Nero d’Avola 2009, Sicilia Italy €6 until August 5th, then €11.99.

A good value introduction to this dark horse of a grape. This is mid weight but they do come more richly flavoured. Expect to find blackberry and cherry-ish fruit with a liquorice like spice. One for Shiraz lovers to try.

Escondite Perfecto Bierzo 2010, Bierzo, Spain, M & S €14.99.
North West Spain’s Mencia grape is a rising star and the Bierzo region has attracted many of Spain’s leading winemakers over the last 6 or 7 years. It’s usually manages to strike good balance. It gets ripe without every getting jammy, spicy without overwhelming, firm without being tannic. All of which makes it versatile enough to drink on its own or with most meat dishes. If this is too expensive try La Mano Mencia Bierzo from at €9 or Spanish Steps Bierzo from Superquinn €10.99. One for merlot drinkers.

JP Azeito Tinto 2010, VR Peninsula de Setubal, Portugal. Superquinn €6 and 3 for €15.
A stalwart of many a bargain basement basket in many an Irish wine store for the last 20 years or more and tasting better than ever and these days it’s a Superquinn exclusive. Expect to find mid weight raspberry fruit with a little pepper. Made from 70% Castelao 20% Aragonez and 10% Syrah. One for bargain hunters. for my recommendations on drink. for my views on wine and life.

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