Tag Archives: Marks & Spencer

Brosé, Pink Wine, Blush: A Rosé By Any Other Name…

We seem to have an unusual aversion to rosé wines here in Ireland. Only 3% of all the wine we drink is pink, which is some distance off the 10%-11% figure recorded by our neighbours in Britain; even the US is experiencing a boom in the style, with the hashtag “#Brosé” doing its best to undo old perceptions of rosé as being “just a girls’ drink”.

The lack of knowledge about rosé might be a factor. Many believe that it’s just red and white wine mixed together, whereas in fact that’s rarely the case (though I’ve one such rarity below) and in fact it’s illegal to do so in Europe (except Champagne, but that’s another story). Others apparently believe that rosé is just red wine that’s been ‘watered down’.

Brosé, Pink Wine, Blush A Rosé By Any Other Name…

In fact, since red wine gets its colour and flavour from its skins, then the less time the grape juice spends in contact with them then the lighter the colour of the wine. So in theory rosé can be considered a really light red wine … simple really (well, it can get a little technical, but that’s for another day).

Either way, the inference of these popular misconceptions is that rosé is somewhat inferior, which couldn’t be further from the truth: instead of comparing them to reds and whites, rosé needs to be considered a style in itself rather than a pale (or dark) imitation of the others.

So if you’re looking for a nice rosé this Valentine’s Day, look no further than the list below. But before you do, I’ve a huge admission: I’m not such a big fan of rosé myself.

I do appreciate the style, but I don’t instinctively seek it out. If anything though, this should serve as a stronger commendation to the below wines – if they’ve managed to bowl me over, then they’re sure to turn even the most sceptical wine drinker.

And, of course, these would all work great around the world’s annual celebration of love. Happy Valentine’s Day!


Brosé, Pink Wine, Blush A Rosé By Any Other Name…JN Sparkling Saumur Rosé

RSP €23.95 from JNwines.com

First, a pink bubbly: this is a special bottling for importer/retailer JN Wines made by Bouvet-Ladubay of the Loire region in France and made from the often-overlooked Cabernet Franc grape (and I’d really highly recommend their regular white sparkling too).

It has a lovely ripe strawberry-and-cream character, and the palate has a  deliciously creamy mousse also. Thankfully it manages to avoid the cloying sweetness than can befall sparkling rosés at this price point, and indeed it has a slight bitter edge at the finish, which sounds off-putting but is actually great asset to have when it comes to pairing with food: think poached salmon or charcuterie.

Brosé, Pink Wine, Blush A Rosé By Any Other Name…Miguel Torres Santa Digna Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Rosado

RSP €13.99 and widely available: e.g. Mitchell & Son, Dublin; Jus De Vine, Portmarnock, Co. Dublin; Sweeneys  of Glasnevin, Dublin; Ardkeen Stores, Waterford; Bradley’s, North Main Street, Cork; O’Driscoll’s of Ballinlough, Cork; Amber of Fermoy, Co. Cork

Though not necessarily unusual, a rosé (or Rosado in Spanish) made from Cabernet Sauvignon is nevertheless not common, at least here in Ireland. Which is a shame really, as the result can be spectacular, such as this one from the Chilean outpost of the famous Torres family.

Expect blackcurrant, of course, but also some cranberry and redcurrant that only Pacific Cabernet Sauvignon rosés can offer.  It is also somewhat weightier than most rosés that we’re familiar with – so much so you could say it’s not too far off a light red wine. Delicious with cured sausages, meat pies and many pasta dishes … and, remarkably, it’s even perfect with notoriously difficult sweet-and-sour Chinese dishes.

Brosé, Pink Wine, Blush A Rosé By Any Other Name…Kir-Yianni Akakies Rosé

RSP €16 from Grapevine, Dalkey

I recommended this rosé before, and I was so impressed I felt it beared repeating, especially given the pink theme for this time of year.

Similar to the Miguel Torres above, this 100% Xinomavro from Greece is more akin to a light red than a rosé, but it dials up the beefy, meatiness more than its Chilean counterpart above.

The Amyndeon appellation in north-western Greece, from which this wine is sourced, is the only Greek PDO for rosé wines. It has smoky, macerated strawberry and raspberry aromas with a balanced medium body. Again it would be great with some charcuterie and even lighter meat dishes such as pork.

Brosé, Pink Wine, Blush A Rosé By Any Other Name…Masi Rosa dei Masi

RSP €18.99 from Baggot Street Wines, Dublin; Ardkeen Stores, Waterford; Fine Wines, Limerick; Nolans of Clontarf, Dublin; Redmonds of Ranelagh, Dublin

I’m a long-time fan of the family-owned Masi winery in Italy’s Veneto. They’re most famous for establishing the ‘ripasso’ tradition with Campofiorin as well as their beefy Amarone Costasera.

A couple of years ago they released an innovative rosé made 100% with the native Venetian Refosco grape, produced by semi-drying a portion of these grapes on traditional bamboo racks using the ‘appassimento’ technique. This process helped soften out the often harsh aspects of the Refosco grape and added some ripeness and complexity of the final blend.

It has fresh raspberries and wild cherries over a zippy palate, making it great with food such as antipasti, light pasta dishes, shellfish and seafood. It’s worth mentioning its elaborate rococo label too, perfectly romantic for this time of year.

Brosé, Pink Wine, Blush A Rosé By Any Other Name…Flaxbourne Sauvignon Blanc Rosé

€15.99 from Marks & Spencer

Here’s an unusual one for you. There’s no denying that we’re a nation of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc lovers, so why not go off-piste a little with a rosé version?

They’re cheating a little here in that it’s actually a blend of 97.5% regular Sauvignon Blanc that’s ‘tinted’ with 2.5% Merlot, but the result is a not-unpleasant strawberry-tinged version of the New Zealand ‘savvie’ that we’ve come to know and love.

So if you or a loved one are a die-hard Marlborough Sauvignon fan, add a twist and a bit of spice to Valentine’s Day this year with this approachable oddity.

This article first appeared on TheTaste.ie


Low- and Non-Alcoholic Drinks for January

How are those new year’s resolutions coming along? Mmm hmm, I thought so. Most people seem to go cold turkey come January 1st, which is precisely the wrong thing to do given this is perhaps the most important month to be kind to yourself, what with the come-down from the holidays and the greyness and all.

So a gentle easing back into a healthy routine punctuated by small treats will yield a far more successful outcome as far as a ‘new year new you’ is concerned, in my opinion. Below is a piece I have on TheTaste.ie at the moment giving a few low- and de-alcoholised drinks suggestions, plus some nice soft drink alternatives, that will help bridge the gap from the excesses of Christmas.



Ah yes, January, the month we must all atone for the gluttonous sins committed during the festive season. Going ‘cold turkey’ is exactly the wrong way to do things though, and you’re better off cutting back than cutting out. To help, below are some drinks options that have little or no alcohol to ease the transition back to a more moderate lifestyle.


botelleria torres, natureo blancTorres Natureo
€7.99 and widely available

Yes, I featured the famous Natureo last year too, but I’ve no problem recommending it again as it is – in my opinion – the best de-alcoholised wine out there.

“De-alcoholised” may be a mouthful but they can’t legally call it non-alcoholic wine as there’s technically still 0.5% alcohol remaining (which is impossible to remove) but that amount is so tiny that you would need to drink three full bottles in under an hour to reach the same alcohol as one regular glass of wine!

When served well chilled it’s flavoursome and refreshing, and the ideal alternative if you’re finding it hard to put away the wine glasses for a while. What’s more at only 41 calories per 187ml glass (a quarter bottle) it’s less than half that of full-alcohol wine. Result!


Stonewell Tobairi╠ün CiderStonewell Tobairín Cider
€3.99-€4.69 in Baggot Street Wines, Ardkeen Waterford, and other good indies

The word ‘craft’ has been somewhat over-used at this point, but it’s always refreshing to come across a brand that so thoroughly deserves it.

Based in Kinsale, Co. Cork, Stonewell is run by husband-and-wife team Daniel & Geralding Emerson, who source their apples from orchards across Waterford, Kilkenny and Tipperary. Geraldine is from the Loire in France and comes from a winemaking family, which may go some way to explaining the use of naturally cultured Champagne yeast in the fermentation which gives Stonewell ciders their distinctive character.

Though their range is relatively small with just three ciders, you can feel the enormous thought and effort that has gone into the brand as soon as you pick up one of their bottles – truly a ‘craft’ outfit.

Tobairín (meaning ‘small well’) is their low alcohol cider made from fermented Elstar eating apples blended with fresh Jonagored juice, bringing the alcohol level to just 1.50%. Don’t just drink it as a low-alcohol alternative; why not try it as a drink in its own right paired with some pulled pork or quiche Lorraine.


Black Tower “B Secco” Rosé
€5.00 in supermarkets

“B” is Black Tower’s low-alcohol range, with a red, white and rosé available at a reduced 5.5% ABV and with lower calories to boot. They’ve been so popular that last year Black Tower released two “B Secco” additions, essentially semi-sparkling (i.e. frizzante) versions of their white and rosé “B” wines.

The B Secco Rosé is very soft and easy-drinking with lots of sweet strawberry and raspberry fruit, giving a no-nonsense drink made for socialising that’s great value too.


Ikea Dryck Bubbel Päron (Sparkling Pear Drink)
€2.49 in Ikea

Maybe a little left-field, but I had this recently and was pleasantly surprised. OK, it’s an Ikea drink so it’s not going to knock your socks off, but it was much less sweet than anticipated, a downside to most commercial sparkling juice options such as Shloer.

There’s 19% pear juice in it along with 10% apple juice (making it a “Sparkling Pear & Apple Drink” surely?) with the result being a very refreshingly simple sipper. Just don’t be tempted to add some of Ikea’s cinnamon buns to your shopping basket while you’re there.


M&S Apple JuiceMarks & Spencer Sparkling Normandy Apple Juice
€3.49 from Marks & Spencer

I featured the Sparkling Normandy Apple & Pear Juice this time last year and would still highly rate it, but for a change there’s also Marks & Sparks’ straight Sparkling Normandy Apple drink that offers a more crisp and lively option.

It’s a bit more linear and subtle to the Sparkling Apple & Pear variant, as well as being more fresh and zingy, given the absence of the softening aspect of the pear juice. The result is something very refreshing and moreish and perfect for wetting your whistle this January; and nicely packaged it is too.

The WC Club – Argentina

Last week saw the first sitting in 2013 of the WC Club, which stands for, well, the Wine Club, eh, Club. I found myself honoured to be invited to this gathering of like-minded wine lovers, the first meet of the club in some time, and indeed I felt a little trepidation, like my first day at school.

A wine topic is chosen in advance – whether geographical, varietal, etc. – and each attendee is expected to bring along a bottle fitting the bill. Each wine is tackled individually, preceded by an informed presentation from its benefactor, then studiously examined and discussed in a balanced, erudite fashion. Marks out of 100 are given, with extra points going to wines at €12 and below. The meetings are decorous and abstemious, and finish early in time for bed and the Late Late Show.

The topic of this congressional was Argentina, so much of my spare thought that evening was taken up wondering whether the wines were Argentine or Argentinian. I’ve Googled it since and still don’t know any better. Either way, here’s what was on the table that night:

Marks & Spencer Fragoso Chardonnay 2011, €12.00, M&S[singlepic id=13 w=320 h=240 float=right]

Lanolin and butter on the nose and medium-bodied on the palate with your typical touches of tropical fruit, but not enough to warrant any sort of excitement. I thought it was lightly oaked, but no, it was completely unoaked, much to my surprise.

There was a little something on the nose also which those in the trade call ‘funky’ – and no I don’t mean in a swinging sixties way – but a sort of ‘barnyard smell’ which oftentimes can be attributed to a little excess sulphur which is yet to ‘blow off’ or dissipate given a few minutes of air. Ok ok, enough wine euphemisms: it’s a ‘farty’ smell, but it’s relatively normal and not uncommon with screwcapped wines as they provide a tighter seal which can exacerbate the issue. But it’s all grand, really. Seriously!

Anyway, this wine was found wanting and had a harsh jarring quality which, as you can guess, is not exactly good. All in all it was an experience to have an Argentinean/Argentine chardonnay, but I wouldn’t pick up this bottle again.

[singlepic id=15 w=320 h=240 float=left]Lo Tengo Torrontes 2010, €10.99, O’Brien’s

Bought for its shiny holographic label of Tango dancers, this was thickly aromatic on the nose – almost sickly sweet, like air freshener. But my God it tasted awful: harsh, alcoholic, a paint-stripper quality with a note of peach. Completely unpalatable, but others found it fine which confused me. What’s odd is that this came from O’Brien’s who should know better, though on reflection I wonder if it was a bad bottle.

Michel Torino Don David Reserve Malbec 2010, €13.99, Redmond’s of Ranelagh[singlepic id=12 w=320 h=240 float=right]

The lovely people in Redmond’s must have been wondering what on earth was happening in the Argentina section of their shop that evening as three of us sourced our wines from there. Joan brought this one, which was, she proudly pointed out, from the highest vineyard in Argentina at 1,700m.

This was quite closed on approach, meaning that it was quite hard what to make of it initially. When this happens in wine you need to leave them breathe a bit, so after a few minutes of frantic swirling we got some decent dark fruit character, plums and the like, but what really showed was its minerality, which I wasn’t really expecting from an Argentinean malbec. Some likened it to a metallic, blood-like taste too, which I suppose wasn’t too far off and suited the whole ‘pair with steak’ maxim well. It was too tightly wound for the duration of our tasting and would have been better had it opened a bit more, but it was generally agreed that the quality was excellent.

The fact that we were sniffing, sipping and postulating throughout the tasting was testament to this fact, because you never exert any brain power on €6 supermarket wines (which is one reason they’re so popular I suppose).

[singlepic id=20 w=320 h=240 float=left]Masi Passo Doble 2010, €14.39, Redmond’s of Ranelagh (and not, ridiculously, €16.50 in Superquinn)

This is the one I brought, the South American venture of renowned Italian winemaker Masi Agricola. It’s a blend of 70% Malbec but also 30% of the indigenous Venetian varietal called Corvina, and not only that but the Corvina is semi-dried by laying it out on bamboo racks, concentrating the flavours and adding plenty of oomph to the end product.

The result is a big, rich, full-bodied wine, very up-front and generous with the fruit. Baked summer berries, blueberries and dried raisins were what I got on the palate, then later some dried cranberries. The balance is great and some lovely integrated tannin decided to gently announce itself after a while, though some found it a little too drying. It was a big, friendly, approachable drop, but therein lay its weakness: some, and eventually I too, found it maybe a little simple; delicious and generous yes, but not much complexity.

Oh, and the price? €14.39 in Redmond’s of Ranelagh, but stupidly enough €16.50 in Superquinn Rathgar. It pays to shop around, and it’s always so much better giving the customer to your local offie.

Las Moras Malbec 2011, €10.99, Redmond’s of Ranelagh[singlepic id=14 w=320 h=240 float=right]

This had a smokey, spicy nose, but was nevertheless a bit shallow. Unfortunately the palate wasn’t much more impressive with a whack of alcohol showing up the lack of balance, a bitter tang which probably indicated poor fruit, and some residual sugar which was probably the winemaker’s attempt to make it palatable. Not offensive, but a no-go for me.

[singlepic id=18 w=320 h=240 float=left]Andeluna 1300 Malbec 2011, €12.99, Louis Albrouze

This, interestingly enough, was the only Argentinian (or Argentine? Gah!) wine that Louis Albrouze stocks in his fantastic offie on Leeson Street, so much given over to the Old World as he is. It come from vineyards that are, in light of the Don David, only a paltry 1,300m above sea level.

This was very much chocolately on the nose with some distinct smokiness and spice but also cranberry and black cherry. On the palate it was rich, full-bodied, had decent tannin (though more evident than the Masi), some nice oak (and therefore some vanilla), but in all it was also, like the Masi, a little simple overall.

Santa Rita 120 Merlot, €cheap, From Everywhere[singlepic id=11 w=320 h=240 float=right]

Yes, you read right. A late-comer, who shall not be named, didn’t read the brief correctly (or at all) and showed up with a wine that was from the wrong country. And a bland supermarket brand too. But, being game wine enthusiasts we decided to give it a go. The result wasn’t pretty. It was stalky and green, sulpherous, acrid, confected shite. I’m not a wine snob but I’ll have to call out a shite wine for what it is, and Santa Rita 120 is definitely that.

So who won? By a nose it was the Don David, then the Andeluna, then the Masi, though personally I would have put the Masi ahead of the Andeluna. Interestingly, though we didn’t pour out large glasses, we seemed to have no wine left, so theoretically we each drank a bottle of 14% alcohol wine each, which didn’t feel right. Either way it was felt that another bottle was in order to a Chateauneuf-du-Pape appeared out of nowhere but, alas, I had an early-morning drive ahead of me so made my excuses, and lived to wine another day.