We set wine critic Cathal McBride a challenge: to sample the Dunnes Stores Simply Better range of delicious wines, and choose his favourite dozen.
His list represents a value-driven, guaranteed crowd-pleasing primer on the red, white and sparkling wines to stock up on this festive season, and comes with the Food&Wine stamp of approval. Your challenge? Simply to pour and savour.
Chianti Classico Campomaggio 2015
Chianti is made from sangiovese, a rustic Italian grape, but is produced in a refined style, with a typical nose of cherry and plum, along with a pleasing bounce of herbal notes. This well-balanced example is bright and smooth, but with a full-bodied nature and firm tannins, and is excellent value considering the vintage.
It would be perfect with hearty tomato-based pasta dishes and with pizza, but its fresh and fruity acidity would also work well with a rare venison wellington. Don’t hold onto this one for future consumption - it’s perfect for drinking now.
Altos de Tamaron Ribera del Duero Crianza 2018
This is a vintage that surpassed the previous year by some distance. Smooth concentrated dark fruits abound on the nose, and in the finish there’s delicate spice, vanilla and coffee grounds. This wine has been aged for 14 months in new American oak barrels, followed by a further nine months ageing in the bottle, and the result is something warming and elegant.
I would serve this with a wide range of tapas dishes, roasted red meats and comforting winter stews, or with aged cheeses such as Manchego from Spain or Rockfield from Ireland. It would be great with steak too.
Château de Pierreux Brouilly Rouge 2019
This wine comes from Brouilly, an exciting appellation of Beaujolais, and is made from the gamay grape, giving it a lighter, softer style that will appeal to those who prefer their reds to be on the easier side. It’s produced using organic and biodynamic farming methods, with the grapes harvested by hand.
Its high acidity means it would work beautifully with your Christmas turkey and ham, but it would also be great with a rich hearty beef and root vegetable stew, roast loin of pork with crackling, or a charcuterie board. This vintage should hold well for a number of years, but personally I’ll be enjoying this wine - a firm favourite of mine from the Simply Better range - this year.
Château Tour Bayard Saint-Émilion Grand Vin de Bourdeaux 2016
This is a typical Bordeaux Right Bank blend, made from 70 per cent merlot, 25 per cent cabernet franc and a drop of malbec, and it’s excellent value considering its style and substance. There’s an enticing, fruit-led bouquet of dark and red berries, and a vanilla backdrop with a presence of oak-aged spice. On the palate, a core of rich black fruit leads into a lengthy and warming with refined tannins.
This wine should age incredibly well, but if you’re planning to drink it this Christmas, decant it for at least an hour beforehand to open it up. Enjoy with all types of red meats and soft, creamy ripe cheeses.
Esquinas Malbec 2020
The altitude, soil and climate of Mendoza have all played their part in turning malbec, a grape that originated in France, into the Argentinian powerhouse that we know today. In a tough season with high temperatures, the 2020 vintage of Mendoza malbecs required early picking, yet despite the challenges the results are wonderful. Here, a deep, dark purple presence in the glass leads into intense dark fruits on the nose with a mild undercurrent layer of spice.
Dry in style and full-bodied in nature, there is a lingering finish of cocoa bean with this wine, and it would be delicious with a spiced baked ham, salamis and red meats.
Casa Fondata Principesco Pinot Grigio, Sicily, 2020
There was a lower yield for pinot grigio last year, but it produced a higher quality grape that provided a good balance of sugar content and acidity. This light, breezy, refreshing wine is a great example, with its medium acidity and pleasing hint of minerality in the finish.
Its balance and structure would make it an ideal choice as an apéritif, but also as a match for a host of lighter chicken, fish or seafood dishes. This is an all-round crowd-pleaser for the season.
Tiki Grey Label Sauvignon Blanc 2020
The growing season for the New Zealand sauvignon blanc 2020 vintage was a particularly excellent one, with long dry spells and hotter temperatures than usual. This is reflected in the wines, which are vibrantly aromatic and filled with scents of tropical fruits like mango and passion fruit, as well as that grapefruit citrus zing adored by so many NZ sauvignon fans. This wine would make a fantastic accompaniment to all types of seafood from oysters to shellfish, so have it on hand for your Christmas Day seafood platter.
Mâcon-Villages Domaine des Persesons, Burgundy, France
Mâcon-Villages is the name given to the appellation of 26 communes around Maconnais, a beautiful hilly region of southern Burgundy. This wine is made from the chardonnay grape but it is not oak-aged, so expect a fresher character here than you might expect. It is filled with aromas of apple, stone fruits and citrus, with a faint hint of smokiness, and offers strong texture and body with a crisp finish.
Have this on your Christmas table if you’re serving seafood-based starters featuring crab or smoked salmon, and it will pair very nicely with the roast turkey too.
Nai e Señora, Albariño, Rias Baixas 2020
Emanating from north-western Spain, the albariño grape from Rias Baixas absorbs the saline minerality of its coastline terroir. This vineyard takes a modern approach to winemaking, and the result is a tangy and vibrant liquid with restrained aromas of peaches and pears, along with hints of grapefruit and herbs. With its salivatingly saline finish, it would be a perfect pairing for all things seafood-related - I’m going to drink mine with fish and chips - or with white meats.
Torre Oria Cava Brut Reserva, NV, Spain
A wonderful alternative to Champagne, this wine is made in the méthode traditionnelle with grapes from Requena in Valencia. Those grapes are chardonnay and macabeo, and here they instantly present yeasty aromas before settling into a bouquet of crisp apple, peach and interesting berry tones. Dry in style, this wine is intensely juicy and lively, with a complexity of flavours that invigorates the palate and delves into a lingering finish.
Representing good value, this is light, approachable and perfect for satisfying a broad spectrum of tastes. It can be easily paired with many dishes, whether it’s fried chicken, fish and chips, canapés, or even roast loin of pork with crackling.
H.Blin Champagne Blanc de Noirs, NV
The Champagne region allows for the growing of chardonnay, pinot noir and petit meunier grapes. This sparker is made from 100 per cent of the latter, which makes it a blanc de noirs, a Champagne-style made entirely from red grapes. This unusual composition results in a wine with an intensely fragrant and heady perfume of ripe pears, along with toasted hazelnuts and notes of buttery brioche.
This is a superb value wine that would be great served with rich fish dishes, shellfish such as prawns and langoustines, sushi or simply as an apéritif.
Sacchetto Prosecco Spumante DOC, NV
Prosecco, that energetic Italian sparkling wine, has become hugely popular with those who prefer a sweeter expression of their bubbles than they might find in Champagne. The Sacchetto family have been making wine in the Veneto region for almost 100 years, and this example is a touch on the sweeter side of dry.
It would be an excellent apéritif on the big day, and also an ideal accompaniment to spicy starters such as chilli prawns.
Save 20% on Simply Better Wine, Sparkling Wine and Champagne.
You can find these wines and the wider Dunnes Stores Simply Better offering at selected Dunnes Stores and you can order online at www.dunnestoresgrocery.com.* Alternatively, click here to be taken directly to the Food&Wine Festive Wine Advisory
*Delivery available to selected areas only. 20% off promotion applies to all wine, sparkling wine & champagne 750ml. PRICE SHOWN INCLUDES REDUCTION.
Customer quotas may apply, see in-store for details. Excludes fortifieds, gift packs and multi-packs. PLEASE DRINK SENSIBLY.
**Alcohol is excluded from the €10 off €50 voucher promotion. Prices correct at time of print.