I absolutely love wine, but I will never consider myself a wine expert. When I moved to Ireland 10 years ago, I found myself surrounded by old-world varieties we wouldn’t often see in my native Canada and, in many ways, it felt like my wine education had begun all over again. This was a good thing; it has been a wild ride of delicious discoveries ever since.
Living in rural Ireland is mostly wonderful, but I think we can all agree that these speciality wines aren’t as easy to come by when you’re hours away from the nearest city. Luckily for me, though, there are a few excellent wine shops within 40-minute drive of our farm. The people who operate these shops aren’t just wine experts – they live and breathe wine and take serious pride in their ability to source the perfect bottle for any occasion.
Tony Byrne co-owns wine and speciality food shop Grape and Bean, with two locations – one in Abbeyleix and another in Portlaoise. Tony and his sister, Margaret, run the business together, with Tony taking care of the wine sourcing.
Tony spends time each year visiting wineries and making special purchases for his shops. Many of the wines he sells are organic and you can also find a few really nice biodynamic options (if you’re into that kind of thing). The most important thing to Tony is to source wines from small, family-run vineyards.
Tony tried Neven’s recipes for this month’s Entertaining at Home edition and chose some really interesting wines to pair with each course. He made these pairings with some classic rules in mind, but added in a bit of adventurous flair.
Camperchi Chianti DOCG (€17.99)
To pair with this deeply flavoured, tomato-based soup, Tony went with a classic rule: what grows together, goes together. Like the inspiration for this soup, chianti comes from the Tuscan region of Italy. This organic Camperchi Chianti DOCG (€17.99), in particular, stands up perfectly to the layers of flavour within the soup, with plenty of floral and red berry notes on the nose. It’s fresh enough on the palate, making it a good all-rounder wine for drinking on its own or pairing with food.
“It’s medium bodied with fine tannins that will not overpower the food, while still having enough structure to hold its own with the acidity in the tomato and bitter sweet taste of the kale,” Tony explains.
Chenin Blanc called Domaine des Galloires Paf! Le Chenin (€17.99)
For Neven’s balsamic brisket, your mind might immediately go back to that chianti when considering a wine pairing. However, Tony goes in an unexpected direction: match the sauce first. With this in mind, he has gone white and chosen a chenin blanc called Domaine des Galloires Paf! Le Chenin (€17.99).
“Paf! Le Chenin comes from a seventh-generation family vineyard in the Loire Valley,” he explains. “The winemaker has chosen to make this wine in a semi-sweet style, enhancing fruit flavours like mango, pear and citrus. The cool climate of the Loire means that there is also enough acidity to balance the wine. We think this will match with the sweetness in the sauce.”
Dios Baco Pedro Ximinez sherry (€26.99)
Which wine do you pair with a dessert as decadent as caramel brownies? Tony went with a rich, fortified wine which, he feels, complements the richness of the dessert: a Spanish sherry called Dios Baco Pedro Ximinez (€26.99).
A little goes a long way here, with a small pour into a snifter glass to savour alongside Neven’s chocolatey dessert.
“This is a powerful wine, with luscious ripe raisin, treacle and coffee aromas,” Tony says. “In the mouth, it’s rich and viscous with pronounced flavours of prunes, black cherry, figs and dried dark fruit with an intense, warm finish and a hint of citrus. It comes in the top 1% of wines in the world [according to Vivino independent reviews].”
For more on these wines, visit www.grapeandbean.ie