Our wine writer picks her five favourite bottles for celebrating that special moment
Is there a wine that brings you back to a time and a place, transplanting you in the moment when a vivid memory was made? Maybe it was your first glass of unfailingly uplifting bubbles, or an exceptional vintage, or an unusual blend of grapes that were particularly pleasing to your palate. Perhaps it was simply that the company or context were so special as to etch an unforgettable impression of the wine shared.
My wine of the week is one such Proustian portal. I discovered it in the late summer of 2020 at Dax Restaurant on Pembroke Street, just as that very first, very surreal lockdown was being tentatively lifted. It was all so weird. The empty city streets where foxes roamed in daylight like they owned them. The hand spray and the visors and the ‘no pub to meet in for a quick drink first’. I was giddy to see an old, beloved friend in a beautiful restaurant, nervous to be adjusting to our new reality, and overwhelmed by the intensity of it all. I was in need of a delicious drink to settle me.
As one of our best maître d’s, Dax owner Olivier Meisonnave knows how to match a drink to a moment. He suggested a glass of Domaine Renardat-Fache Bugey Cerdon, a joyous fizz that he had first served in a Parisian restaurant in 1989, and had been searching for since. He was excited to discover that Enrico Fantasia of Grapecircus Wines (and Piglet restaurant) was sourcing it from the third generation of the top family-run winery of Bugey — a tiny appellation in the steep alpine foothills of France’s southern Jura, below Burgundy, above Rhône and between Beaujolais and Savoie. Made meticulously from organically grown, hand-harvested Gamay and Poulsard grapes, and with the most glorious plum-pink meets electro-cherry colour, this ‘méthode ancestrale’ wine finishes its single fermentation in the bottle. The resulting naturally sparkling, low-alcohol, demi-sec pét-nat (pétillant naturel) wine was the most delicious thing I had tasted in a long, long time. As I described it in a subsequent restaurant review for Georgina Campbell’s Ireland Guide, it reminded me of “well-made Kir Royale, counterbalancing elegant structure and vibrant summer fruits, only without the added cassis”.
I re-tasted it recently with tentative curiosity: was my memory setting me up for disappointment? It wasn’t. It’s still one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted. A pét-nat to convert pét-nat sceptics; a wine for making memories. It’s in good company here with four more bubbles with a little ripe roundness for moreish drinkability. Enjoy.
Domaine Renardat-Fache, Cerdon Bugey AOC 2020, Jura, France, 8pc,€33
Prepare to fall in love with this impeccably balanced drop of gorgeousness, which uses temperature control to interrupt the single fermentation before lightly filtering and bottling with no added sugar or yeast. Vibrant electro-cherry red in colour, singing with fruity character (raspberry and grapes, pomegranate and sour cherry plum), demi-sec in sweetness but with brilliant acidity, mineral bite and fine bubbles. At just 8pc, you can keep on drinking! Ideal with salty nibbles. Sheridans, Lilith, Lennox Street Grocer, Green Man Wines, Savoir Fare (Westport), MacCurtain Wine Cellar (Cork)
Domaine le Roc, Roc’Ambulle Pét-Nat Rosé, Fronton, France, 9pc, €21.65
Gorgeous bright berry-cherry fruits carry through from the expressive bouquet to the off-dry palate. Summery, juicy and charming, produced near Toulouse from Négrette grapes for a pale-pink effect and bottled without added sulphites. Also in magnum (1.5l, €46). Green Man Wines, Fallon & Byrne, SC Grocer, The Drink Store, Redmonds Ranelagh, Pop-Up Shop Ballymaloe, Le Caveau
Marchiori Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut, Veneto, Italy, 11.5pc, €21.21
Classy and charming Prosecco as it used to be made, with five local grape varieties rather than a solo Glera Tonda expression (this has 15pc Glera Lunga/Perera/Bianchetta/Verdiso, all from hillside vineyards ). Fresh and clean with subtle hints of white chocolate and dried orchard fruits. winespark.com
Santa Tresa Il Grillo Vino Spumante Brut, Sicily, 12.5pc,€18.95
Sicily’s answer to Prosecco, in a dry style but with the Grillo grape’s sun-washed ripeness and signature freshness, so a fine foil for spiced foods and Sicily’s classic bar snack, arancini. Notes of acacia and almond blossom, generous body, delicate bubbles and a crisp citrus finish. Reduced from €20.95 until July 31. O’Briens Wine
Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Dry 2021, Italy, 11.5pc, €9.99
I featured this at Christmas at €12.99, but it is even better value now. Think pear-drop and peach aromas, a slightly off-dry palate (confusingly ‘extra dry’ is less dry than Brut) that is rounded rather than cloying, and fully sparkling (‘spumante’) that will stay bubbly for a day or two. Go salty snacks or barbecues. Lidl