Mid-week tipple: A bold barley wine and a fruity Pinot Noir

Each week, John Wilson selects a great beer and wine to try right now. This week: Eight Degrees Mór Barley Wine and Luis Felipe Edwards Gran Reserva Family Selection Pinot Noir 2013

Eight Degrees Mór Barley Wine

Barley wine is not a wine at all, but a beer. It has a long history, going back to Ancient Greece, although these would have tasted very different to the modern versions, as back then there were no hops around. The wine part is a reference to its alcoholic strength, as barley wine comes in at a strapping 8-13% alcohol, making it one of the strongest beers of all. There are two styles, English and American; English tends to be maltier and rounded in flavour, American intensely hoppy and bitter. Apparently they age very well, like a good wine. However, if you want to try ageing the Eight Degrees version, you will have to be quick off the mark; the brewery is down to its last few cases.

The name says it all; Eight Degrees Mór is big and bold, with masses of American hops. The nose is deceptive, with light notes of toffee. The palate is massive, with buckets of stone fruits, caramel and spicy bitter hops.  The alcohol (10.2%) kicks in nicely; this is a well-balanced robust warming beer, perfect for these cold January evenings.  €4.49 for a 33cl bottle from specialist off-licences.

Luis Felipe Edwards Gran Reserva Family Selection Pinot Noir 2013


Herewith my lightening guide to the world of Pinot Noir, fast becoming the wine everybody wants to drink. Burgundy produces the most complex wonderful Pinot of all. The best are hideously expensive, the cheapest are very variable. New Zealand probably comes next with excellent wines at the top end and lovely fruit-filled wines at the cheaper end. The problem is the cheaper end is generally around €15.

Germany, next door to Burgundy, produces some fantastic elegant wines too, but again they tend to start at €15. Sadly the best value (as opposed to cheapest) wines from the three above mentioned areas generally cost between €20 and €30, with nothing drinkable at €10. Only Chile can deliver here. The above wine, a mere €10 from SuperValu and O’Donovan’s in Cork, is a very gluggable light wine with earthy dark cherry fruits. Great value too.