Prices are going up and wine is not immune from the same economic pressures that are driving up the cost of other commodities, although falling demand from Russian oligarchs may affect the prices of luxury wines. Other than that, small harvests, and rising costs for packaging and transport, mean prices have increased.
This is the time of year when many importers hold portfolio tastings for their customers and press. It seems to me as if many wines have increased by a euro or two in price, and sometimes more. Wines that sold for €15 until fairly recently are now pushing €20.
Many supermarkets have started selling more lower alcohol wines, such as the German Riesling featured here, at very cheap prices, as they are less affected by the minimum pricing regulations. I am not sure if it is what the health authorities intended, but it should mean consumers drink less alcohol.
As for the portfolio tastings, we have an ever-growing band of enthusiastic boutique wine importers offering some fascinating wines that are available in only limited quantities. It makes my job much more interesting, if a little more arduous. Despite all the new wines I have tasted in the first spring tastings, the four featured here, selected for value as well as flavour, are old favourites.
German Riesling seems to be making a comeback if the multiples are an indicator. Dunnes Stores has the Schiefer Steillage, Lidl the Braunberger Kurfürstlay, SuperValu the Albert Glas Brown Label, and O’Briens the Lingenfelder Bird Label. All of these wines cost less than €15, so if you are looking for well-priced whites to drink this summer, these are well worth trying. Most are off-dry, but with that laser-like crisp acidity, so you don’t really notice it.
I probably don’t write often enough about the wines of Alsace. I am not sure why, as they offer great value and I drink them frequently. The Meyer-Fonné wines are classic examples, very keenly priced given the quality. The Gentil d’Alsace is made from a blend of Muscat, Pinot Blanc, Riesling and Gewürztraminer.
Luis Seabra is one of the most talented winemakers in Portugal. He selects grapes from vineyards in the Douro, Dao and Vinho Verde. All the wines, red and white, are made in a distinctive refreshing mineral style. I enjoyed the wine featured here over dinner in Grapevine in Dalkey.
Amalaya is one of my favourite producers in Argentina. The Calchaquí Valley, far to the north of Mendoza, has vineyards ranging from 1,500-2,000m high. The wines here have haunting aromas, an invigorating freshness and a delicious purity of fruit. The same company owns Colomé estate, a two-hour bumpy drive through wild countryside away and home to some of the highest vineyards in the world.
Blütengarten Riesling 2021, Rheinhessen, Germany 11%, €6.99 Crisp, zesty lime with crunchy green apples and pears, finishing off-dry, although in perfect balance with the acidity. A great summer wine to enjoy solo or with crab, including Thai crab cakes, and all sorts of prawn dishes. From: Aldi, aldi.ie
Amalaya Calchaquí Valley Malbec 2020, Argentina 14%, €19.99 Fresh and very aromatic with delicious pure blackcurrant and plum fruits, a touch of spice and a lightly tannic finish. Drink it with a steak certainly, but it would go nicely with all sorts of Mexican foods from fajitas to burritos as well as red peppers and aubergines. From: Red Nose Wines, Clonmel, rednosewine.com; Baggot Street Wines, D4, baggotstreetwines.com; Martin's Off Licence, D3, martinsofflicence.ie; Wineonline.ie
Meyer-Fonné Gentil d'Alsace 2019, France 12%, €19.95 Enticing stone fruit fragrances, plump peach and apricot, with a subtle honeyed note, plenty of zip and a dry finish. A wonderful aperitif, or try it with semi-soft cheese, a lightly spicy chicken or butternut squash curry. From: Baggot Street Wines, D4, baggotstreetwines.com; Martin's Off Licence, D3, martinsofflicence.ie; MacGuinness Wines, Dundalk, dundalkwines.com; Ely Wine Store, Maynooth; elywinebar.ie; Fallon & Byrne, D2, fallonandbyrne.com; Le Caveau, Kilkenny, lecaveau.ie
Luis Seabra Xisto Ilimtado 2019 Douro, Portugal 12.5%, €24 Taut lively blackberries and plums with a strong mineral streak, fine grippy tannins and a refreshing finish. Thrilling wine. Try it with pork, either charcuterie or grilled pork chops. From: Pinto Wines, D9, pintowines.ie; Green Man Wines, D6, greenmanwines.ie; Lilliput Stores, D7, lilliputstores.com; Lilith Wines, D07; Loose Canon, D2, loosecanon.ie; Thenudewineco.ie; Baggot Street Wines, D4, baggotstreetwines.com; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock, blackrockcellar.com; Batch, Falcarragh, batch.ie; 64wine, Glasthule, 64wine.ie; Grapevine, Dalkey, onthegrapevine.ie; SIYPS.com; Martin’s Off Licence, D3, martinsofflicence.ie; Sweeneys D3, sweeneysd3.ie