Wine: a taste of Spain
Spain, the third largest producer of wine in the world, consistently delivers quality and good value. A clue to the reason for such delicious reliability is its table companion. Spanish food has earned high praise over the past 20 years for its accomplished delivery of taste, innovation and creativity.
A country that places so much pride on the tables of its restaurants and tapas bars has to ensure the food - including the more traditional fare of rich bean and pepper stews with chorizo and beef, cured pork and jamón, olives and tangy cheeses - is flattered by its wine.
Spain's three climates promote diverse styles. Refreshing crisp wines from the cooling Atlantic in the north west. Reliable ripe wines from the warm and balmy Mediterranean to the east and south, to great experimentation with international and local varieties in the centre's continental climate of extreme seasons.
1) Negre del Aspres Criança 2011, DO Emperdà 15pc
Ripe cassis character highlighting Cabernet Sauvignon's presence with a medley of other varietals. Powerful and intense palate with a long throat-warming finish.
€19.99 at O'Driscoll's, Cork and in Dublin: D-Six, Harold's Cross and Deveney's Dundrum.
2) Aguza 2012, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla 13.5pc
Tempranillo's attractive blackberry fruit aromas and flavours are highlighted by vanilla spice from ageing in new oak barriques.
€12.95 at all Fresh Good Food Markets in Dublin (IFSC, Grand Canal, Smithfield and Camden Street).
3) El Pájaro Rojo 2011, DO Bierzo 14.5pc
Perfumed with violets. Dark chocolate violet creams echo on the palate of north-west Spain's local Mencia variety.
€14 in Dublin: Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; JC Savage's, Swords; Wicklow Wine Co and O'Driscoll's, Cork.
4) Bobal 2011, En Vaso, Cien Y Pico, DO Manchuela 14pc
Bouquet of wild game and purple fruits. Blackberry jammy flavours and a long finish from Bobal's century old and ungrafted vines.
€17.99 at Florries, Tramore and World Wide Wines, Waterford. In Dublin: Searson's, Monkstown; Drink Store, Manor Street and Terroirs, Donnybrook.
5) Garnacha Vinas Viejas (old vines) 2010, Las Rocas, DO Calatayud 15pc
Meaty and savoury scents. Delicious and velvety textured with the potent alcohol masked by the warm earthy palate.
€19.99 at Swans, Nass and Holland's, Bray. In Dublin: Redmond's, Ranelagh; Baggot Street Wines; Sweeney's, Glasnevin; McHugh's, Kilbarrack
Value buy: Graham Norton's Own SauviGNon Blanc 2015, New Zealand 12.5pc
Dry with glacial purity of passion fruit sorbet and grapefruit zest, emphasised by a low voltage tingle of acidity.
€12 from €14.99 until January 6 at SuperValu and Centra. All Graham's proceeds donated to Dogs Trust charity in Ireland and the UK.
Lustau Sherry Dinner at Ballymaloe House, Wednesday 18th November, 7.30pm @ €75 where Manuel Lozano will toast Lustau's long connection with Midleton Distillery with a Redbreast 21 Years Old Irish Whiskey. Bookings: firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel: 021-4652531.