Finding the Perfect Tipple on Holiday
I Am bucket'n'spading in northern Portugal this week so think it would be appropriate to make some observations on holiday wines. Change the names on the bottles and the same principles apply -- in Spain, Italy and most any sun spot in the world.
First off, we tend to spend far less on wines abroad. They make the stuff just down the road; tax and duty is far less than in Ireland. We are delighted when we find a bottle for a fiver that seems as good as or better than the stuff we pay a tenner for on a Friday night at home. But then wine always tastes better when there's a bit of sun on your back and the cares of the world are lifted from your shoulders.
Don't be tempted to overdo it. They sell wine in the supermarkets here from as little as €1.63 per 70cl bottle, €2 a litre. House wine in beachside restaurants starts at €2.95 a carafe. Common sense should tell you this will not be very good wine and you should up your spend a bit.
A word on vinho verde. It translates as 'green wine' but not literally. The 'green' is for the grapes, picked a little early for a wine with an attractive 'prickle' of bubbles and searing acidity. Make sure they give it to you well chilled as lukewarm VV can resemble battery acid.
Vinho verde and its equivalents are not to everyone's taste but they cope well with oily fish and rich food.
Portuguese winemaking has come on in leaps and bounds. This week we celebrate a birthday and an anniversary which call for more upscale dining.
At home I drink a fair bit of Portuguese red; alas, my lady doesn't touch red wine as she reckons it gives her headaches. We have turned to whites made by wineries whose reds I'm already fond of.
One of the delights of the trip has been to discover real quality in the white wines of, among others, Quinta do Cabriz, Monte da Peceguina and Herdade dos Grous. Hopefully, like their red equivalents, these will be available in Dublin independent wine merchants.
Spirits, in holiday places, are cheap. My pre-bedtime tipple is a bijou snifterette of excellent Portuguese brandy by Maciera or Messias. Compared to Cognac, it's light, weighing in at around 35-36 ABV. No, they aren't robbing you. Fermentation is stopped earlier to give the drink a faintly sweet edge.
Finally, a word on gin; the local stuff is hanging out in the supermarket for €4.85 a bottle. Fine in fruit-based cocktails but, let down with Schweppes, it tastes nothing like your fave Cork, Gordons or Bombay Sapphire. Be warned!
>>WINE OF THE WEEK Quinta do Cabriz (2009) €9.75, available online at Thewineshop.ie