Corinna Hardgrave: Coastal wines that are well worth trying
The idea of coastal wine is likely to conjure up wonderful memories. Holidays spent by the beach, lounging on a sunny terrace, with something very chilled sitting in an ice bucket - a crisp white, or a delicate rosé. And chances are, the wine you were drinking was produced somewhere nearby. Not necessarily right on the beach, but on hills overlooking a bay, where the temperate breeze cools the slopes so the freshness is preserved in the grapes.
If you have visited the Languedoc in France, Picpoul de Pinet was probably your white of choice. An ancient grape that is native to the region, the vines grow in the numerous lagoons that stretch from the coast to the Pyrénées, yet it is only in the past few years that it has hit the radar. In fact, the region where it is produced only became an appellation in 2013. In a distinctive slim green bottle, what defines this wine is its crisp acidity, making it deliciously refreshing and perfect with the saline tang of oysters, mussels or grilled wild sea bass.
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In Spain, the Albariño wines made in the Rías Baixas region of Galicia are drenched with the influence of the sea. One of the vineyards I visited last year, Lagar de Costa, which is stocked in O'Briens, has vines that run down to the beach. Trained on pergolas, so that the humidity from the sea and the damp climate evaporates rather than rots the grapes, these wines reflect where they are grown. Slightly in from the sandy coast, you'll find vines grown on granite-rich soils. Their freshness is bracing and the sense of minerality you get is often compared to a wet stone. I don't make a habit of licking wet stones, but somehow it describes the crisp sensation of these coastal wines perfectly.
More recently, I was in Campania in Italy. The wonderful but frenetic city of Naples is overlooked by Mount Vesuvius, and the Bay of Naples stretches out from the city, influencing the climate of the surrounding region. Vines grow on the rugged volcanic slopes further inland, and the indigenous white grapes of this region are well worth looking out for - Falanghina, Fiano and Greco di Tufa - which make fresh wines with crisp acidity. This is the home of great pizza and buffalo mozzarella so there will always be well-priced wines to suit the food. One of the indigenous black grape varieties is Aglianico, which makes a red wine with quite a bit of tannin but which is a wonderful match for the local ragù. You will find wines made from all of these grapes in Ireland and generally they are very well-priced. There are good easy-drinking examples in the major supermarkets and, for something more special, check out the independent off-licences.
One of the other great coastal wines well worth trying is Assyrtiko from the Greek island of Santorini. I have never been to Greece, so Santorini, among other islands, is definitely on my bucket list.
Grace O'Malley Whiskey has launched with a limited-release connoisseur collection which includes four 18-year-old single malts, with different cask finishes - Amarone Cask, Cognac Cask, Port Cask and Irish Bourbon Cask - bringing different ageing characteristics and complexities to each whiskey. More affordable is the Grace O'Malley Irish Whiskey, a blend of multiple batches, from three to 10 years old; €39.99 from The Celtic Whiskey Shop, L Mulligan Grocer and graceomalleywhiskey.com
Sip by the sea
Tesco Finest Picpoul de Pinet
€9 (from €12), 12.5pc, from Tesco
From the coastal vineyards of the Languedoc, this Picpoul is perfect with seafood and grilled fish or just on its own. Crisp apple and citrus flavours with a refreshing zing, a good alternative to Sauvignon Blanc.
Falanghina Beneventano IGT 2018
€12, 12pc, from Marks & Spencer
With vineyards in the Benevento Hills outside Naples, you get all the crispness you expect from one of the indigenous grapes of this region. With white blossom aromas and fresh green and citrus fruits, this is a great summer wine.