independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Easy on the purse – and on the palate

Wine of the week Tempranillo 2011

The square-shaped Iberian Peninsula marries two vastly different countries, Spain and Portugal. Together, they create a wedding cake-like outline. The highest tier at the centre is a massive mountain plateau the size of Ireland. The lowest land is at sea level, forming a 45km coastal plain.

Spain's accomplished native black varietal, Tempranillo, features solo with four of the reds below. Planted all over Spain, its character is a medley of blackberry, black cherry and raspberry flavours with a lush texture.

The Ribera del Duero region produces some of Spain's most expensive icon wines. The high altitude's cool nights add more defined flavours to the wine and create a more savoury and intense version than its suave and restrained persona from its native home in Rioja.

The Rioja region has the highest reputation for consistency in quality. A mix of three sub-zones adds complexity to the wines.

Castilla, meanwhile, is a huge area keen to build a better profile, and where investment and innovation in vineyards and wineries produce quality wines at keen prices.

Portugal's hot and dry region, Alentejano in the southeast, is fast gaining a reputation for soft, fruity red wines that are as easy on the pocket as they are on the palate. Often, a familiar international variety gets cosy with the locals, as with the Shiraz and Trincadeira below.

1) Tempranillo 2011 Roble, Minarete, Ribera del Duero, Spain, 13.5pc

Perfume of violets, earth and spicy salami sausage. Richly textured with blackberry and some spice from three months' ageing in oak barrel. Tastes like triple the price. Grill discs of black pudding and toss with garlic potatoes.

€7.49 at Aldi nationwide

2) Tempranillo 2011 Maximo, Castilla, Spain, 13.5pc

Floral and blackberry cordial scents. Lovely ripe and vibrant blackberry flavours held by gentle tannins. Grill lamb steaks, fresh rosemary and garlic.

€9.99 at Next Door, nationwide; Paul's, Donegal; Morton's, Salthill, Galway; Swans on the Green, Naas. In Dublin: Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Morton's, Ranelagh, and Whelan's, Wexford Street

3) Protocolo 2010 Castilla, Spain 14pc

Aromas of dark-chocolate violet creams. Concentrated berry and nutmeg flavours and integrated tannins delivering a silky texture. Enjoy with a chorizo, white bean and tomato stew.

€9.99 at O'Brien's off-licences Dublin citywide

4) Tempranillo 2011 Senorio del Fenojal, Rioja, Spain 13.5pc

Spiced plum flavours and soft tannins underpinning the blackberry, nutmeg and clove spice. Try with lasagne using cooked puy lentils instead of mince.

€9.99 at Donnybrook Fair; Nolan's, Clontarf; On the Grapevine; McCabe's, Blackrock; Martin's, Fairview; Lord Mayor's Off-Licence; La Touche Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Baggot Street Wines; Drink Store, Stoneybatter; Lilac Wines; Deveney's, Rathmines and Dundrum; Nectar Wines; Wines on the Green, Dawson Street, and 64 Wines

5) Shiraz & Trincadeira 2010 Tagus Creek, Alentejano, Portugal 13.5pc

Juicy, fruity berry flavours with dusty and earthy red and black berries cradled in gentle tannins and refreshing acidity. Serve with strips of pork fried in cumin with tomatoes, rice and black olives.

€9.99 at Ardkeen, Waterford; Matson's, Bandon; No 21 Coburg Street, Cork & Midleton; Red Earth, Mullingar; Next Door, Thomastown; O'Sullivan's, Douglas, Blarney and Ballincollig; JJ O'Driscoll's, Ballinlough; Parting Glass, Enniskerry and Cheers @Coachhouse, Ballinteer Avenue, Dublin 16

The International Wine and Spirit Competition, founded in 1969, nominated an Irish person for the first time. Jean Smullen was the only woman among the six finalists for IWSC Wine Communicator of the Year 2013. Jean, based in Dublin, is an experienced wine educator, journalist and broadcaster specialising in managing wine trade and consumer events (jean@jeansmullen.com).

Past title-bearers include Jancis Robinson, Hugh Johnson and Oz Clarke.

Also facing competition from the 'New York Times' wine critic Eric Asimov, Scotsman and spirits expert David Broom narrowly piped Jean for the title.

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