The wine buff: Three to tango
Malbec is one of the better known grape varieties here in Ireland, and as the evenings get a little chillier and we start to tuck into some heartier meals, this warming Argentinian red seems like a perfect choice.
When you think of Argentina, Buenos Aires, the Pampas, wild horses and long sunny days may come to mind, but you may not realise that as the eighth largest country in the world, the terrain changes dramatically as you travel 3,650km from the top to the bottom of the country.
Generally speaking, it is hot, and while you may think loads of sun is great for growing grapes, in Argentina it can be a case of too much of a good thing.
For this reason, 71pc of the vineyards are planted at altitude in Mendoza, which is close to the Andes, and within that region, one of the areas getting attention for its premium wines is the Uco Valley.
Founded by Eugenio Bustos in 1890, Finca La Celia is the oldest winery in the valley. Bustos also has the distinction of being the first to plant Malbec there.
The influence of the Andes is of huge importance. The vineyards are just 30km away, and with an altitude of at least 1000m above sea level, although it is hot during the day, the cool overnight temperatures mean that it is possible to grow grapes so close to the equator.
In fact, the diurnal temperature variation here can be up to 200C from day to night, higher than anywhere else in the world. Cool, dry winds, which blow down from the mountain range also help the growing conditions, ensuring that there is little chance of disease. And despite just 200mm of rainfall per year, there is enough water for these arid vineyards as the vines are irrigated in the summer by water flowing from melting glaciers.
These melting glaciers have eroded the mountains for thousands of years, washing rocks, sands and chalk down the sides to form alluvial soils which are similar to what you find in Burgundy, Rioja and Barolo.
In Finca La Celia, the vineyards are in three districts of the Uco Valley - La Consulta, Eugenio Bustos and Altamira - each with different types of alluvial soil, some of it limestone, which they call 'white chocolate'.
The different terroir brings a distinct variation to the wines from the plots, and these can be blended to reflect the quality of the region.
You are possibly familiar with the range of Argentinian wines from the Spar, Eurospar, Londis and Mace group which includes Altivo for €8.99 and the Eugenio Bustos wines for €10.99. These are made by the multi-award winning female winemaker, Andrea Ferreyra, who also makes the Finca La Celia range.
As you'd expect, there is less complexity in the wines at the lower price point, but I was struck by the quality they all deliver. The Finca La Celia Elite, which is in today's line-up (see left), is particularly good.
Slane Irish Whiskey has just filled their first barrel of malt whiskey, made from barley harvested on the Slane Castle Estate, getting production of their whiskey fully underway. While this whiskey spends the required three years in barrel to age, they will continue to produce their triple casked blend of Irish whiskey using whiskey from other Irish distilleries, which they mature using virgin oak, seasoned whiskey and sherry casks. RRP €33.
Eugenio Bustos Chardonnay 2018
€9.99, 13pc, from Spar, Eurospar, Londis and Mace
Fruity and fresh without a whiff of oak, this has a lovely nose of fresh peach and a touch of citrus with a nice mineral finish. Good on its own or with fish and light dishes.
Ocho y Medio Malbec 2017
€9.95, reduced from €12.95, 13pc, from O'Briens and obrienswine.ie
A Malbec from Spain, the high altitude vineyards in La Mancha mean that this easy-to-drink red is fresh and floral on the nose, with light tannins and flavours of juicy red fruit, blackberries and a touch of dark plum.
La Celia Elite 2015
€17.99, 14pc, from Spar, Eurospar, Londis and Mace
Pure quality, a small percentage of Cabernet Franc blended with the Malbec gives this wine a beautifully floral nose and adds a structural line of graphite to the concentrated palate of red and dark fruit with agile spicy notes.