As we approach Phase 3 of lockdown on Monday, and travel restrictions are lifted, it is likely that plenty of us will be heading for the coast. It is less likely that the coast in question will be outside Ireland. But one of the best ways of transporting yourself is by drinking a wine from a country or region that you've holidayed in and pairing it with the region's food.
I dream of returning to Sicily. I was there for the first time last summer and fell in love with the island, from the slightly grungy appeal of Catania, to the absolute stunning vista of Mount Etna.
When I was there, I visited the Pietradolce winery, where ancient bush vines push through the volcanic soil at altitudes of 600 to 900 metres above sea level, and the wines are made from little-known indigenous grapes, which include the black variety, Nerello Mascalese, and the white variety, Carricante.
A Sicilian indigenous grape that you may be more familiar with is Nero d'Avola, an ancient grape which literally means 'black of Avola'. It is named after the seaside town of Avola in the Syracusa region, which will be familiar to fans of Inspector Montalbano, as will Ragusa, where it is blended with Frappato to make Sicily's only DOCG wine, Cerasuolo di Victoria. It is very reflective of where it is grown and how it is made, so you will find wines that range from light, fresh styles that are beautiful chilled, with their summery flavours of ripe red cherry, raspberry and strawberry, to more intense wines that have been aged for a while in oak barrels, bringing a more concentrated spicy note and darker fruit.
One of the Sicilian wine producers which I've featured in the past is Mandrarossa, a highly respected co-operative on the western coast of Sicily that makes very good quality wines. You'll find its wines in quite a number of the good independent wine shops around the country, so it's worth asking to see if they are in stock.
Another island I dream of visiting again is Tenerife. I have truly wonderful memories of a trip there last March to Suertes del Marqués, a small winery in the northern part of the island. It is poignant, because one of the people on the trip was Claire O'Boyle Gallagher, who founded Green Man Wines in Terenure with her husband David Gallagher. She died just a few weeks ago, at the heartbreakingly young age of 45. I remember standing there with her as the evening sun set, she chatted with me in her beautiful, gentle way, and we looked out at the dramatic vineyards. The vines here, which are up to 250 years old, are not trellised in rows, but instead snake down the hillside horizontally. These vines are up to 10 metres in length, so the canes need to be plaited and tied with twine to keep them in place, using a hugely laborious system called cordón trenzado.
All of today's wines will transport you, so treat yourself to something special.
€36-€38, 12.5pc, from Green Man Wines, Loose Canon, 64 Wine, Sweeney's D3, Lilac Wines, Redmond's
Listán Blanco is an ancient white grape variety that is native to Tenerife. Most of the old vineyards were pulled up to plant Tenerife's world-famous potato, so wine from these grapes is quite rare. Rich, layered and textured, this low-intervention, wild-fermented wine is balanced with a citrus freshness and streak of flinty minerality.
€12.99, 11.5pc, from Aldi
This organic sparkling wine, made from the Grillo grape, which traditionally was used to make Marsala, will appeal to Prosecco lovers with its fruity pear, peach and lime flavours and touch of minerality.
€22.99, 13pc, from Wineonline.ie, Corkscrew, Searson's, 64 Wine, Jus de Vine, Drink Store, Baggot Street Wines, Martin's, McHugh's, Woodberrys
With a perfumed nose that is touched with bramble spice, this is a beautifully balanced Nero d'Avola with a purity of blackberry and red cherry fruit.
€9 reduced from €9.53, buy 3 for €25, 12.5pc, from O'Briens
Quaffable and perfect to serve a little bit chilled, this fruity, easy-drinking red blend from the Trapani area of Western Sicily would be lovely in the garden on a sunny day or for taking on a picnic. There is also a white available in the same range.
€26.75, 12.5pc, from Wines Direct
The white Assyrtiko grape is indigenous to Greece, and this organic wine is from Thessalonika. Low intervention, unfined and unfiltered, it is textured with layered flavours of confit lemon, pear, apricot, honey and nuts.