WINE O’CLOCK: Fine dining in your own kitchen
When I eat in a restaurant with a good wine list (a fading memory, alas) I like to drink it by the glass, letting me try more of the range: a crisp white with the starter, a smooth red with the main course and a nice dessert wine with some cheese to finish things off.
It’s an expensive little pleasure because restaurants impose a heft mark-up on wine. But I don’t begrudge it. It’s how they make a profit in a very precarious business – and now that profit has gone. Even some of the poshest restaurants are doing takeaways now but nobody orders wine with them.
I fear some restaurants will not re-open when this crisis is over. I will certainly try to support those that do.
In the meantime, in recollection of the rare old times, I offer this sample wine menu, from aperitif to afters. You can get all these wines at the good off-licences that are still open or order them online. Most shops will insist on a minimum order for delivery.
Cremant de Bourgogne Simmonnet-Febvre (€24.99 Worldwide Wines, Waterford)
In France, sparkling wines that are not champagne are referred to as cremant, meaning ‘creamy’, as opposed to fizzy. In my opinion this one is as good as Champagne at half the price, the only obvious difference being a distinct citrus tang. A great aperitif.
Villa Maria Clifford Bay Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough (€23.99 La Touce Wines, Greystones)
New Zealand produces some lovely Sauvignon Blanc and this is one of the best. All sorts of interesting flavours here: gooseberry, grapefruit, with a slightly sweet after-taste of melon, perhaps. It won’t overpower a shellfish starter or a light paté.
Chateaux Magnan La Gaffeliere Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 75cl (€24.95, The Wine Centre, Kilkenny)
The rich red colour suggests a robust wine but this is soft, subtle and good value for a grand cru. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc are the grapes in this blend from Bordeaux. Good with steak but delicate enough to go with chicken or fish.
Rabl Trockenbernauslese Riesling (€48 for half bottle, O’Briens)
We don’t associate Austria with dessert wines although it is one of the big producers of Riesling which has the required natural sweetness. This one is intensely sweet, but balances the honey sweetness with a sharp, fruity tang. It’s expensive – but this is a wine for sipping, not slurping.