The fertile fields of West Cork have not been given over to the cultivation of vineyards, the title of this month’s column refers to the supply of wine to residents of this beautiful corner of Ireland. Availability seems to be threefold, supermarkets, online shopping or independent shops. The examples below get mention because of my own personal experience and are not in any way meant to be exhaustive. I’m sure there are wine shops in nooks of West Cork I haven’t yet discovered.
Let’s consider the supermarkets first. There are a number of chains operating in the West Cork area, SuperValu, Dunnes Stores, Aldi and Lidl among them. I suspect most of us buy our wine from one or more of the above. All offer choice both in price and quality. Because of the astronomical tax on wine, it is a good deal more expensive in Ireland than it is in the producing countries. However we do have one advantage and that is the variety of wines on offer. Have you ever noticed when on holidays that French wine shops only offer French wines? In Italy, it is likely that the shops will only offer wine from the particular region you are visiting. The major supermarkets in Ireland have a good range of bargain and premium wines on offer, but to me, a downside is they often carry the same brands and it can be difficult to find smaller producers and unusual wines represented. SuperValu has benefited from the Superquinn takeover, as the latter named had a good reputation for wine, particularly from France. A good example is the Mas Puech, Picpoul de Pinet, a lovely match to seafood, on offer at the moment. Aldi and Lidl both specialise in low-price wines, although Lidl have a separate ‘Quality Wines’ and Aldi have their ‘exquisite’ range.
I find Marks and Spencers (in Cork and Killarney) interesting because they choose and import all their own wine and are constantly introducing new lines.
I am somewhat surprised that there are not more independent wine shops in an area known as a foodie’s haven. Shops such as Lettercollum Project and the Olive Branch in Clonakilty, Urru in Bandon, and the Stuffed Olive in Bantry all have a good choice of wine, often organic, but wine is not their main business. Another favourite of mine is Manning’s Emporium in Ballylickey. An advantage of such independent shops over the supermarkets is that there is usually someone on hand to give you expert advice on your wine choice. I am generalising of course, and there are exceptions. My local SuperValu in Clonakilty has a friendly and knowledgeable wine manager.
Finally, online shopping for wine is becoming ever more popular. Most suppliers will deliver free of charge providing you spend a certain amount or order a certain number of bottles, (generally a case.)
Four of my favourites are Curious Wines, (Cork), O’Brien’s Fine Wines, Terroirs, and Nicholson Wines.
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Rosso di Montepulciano – lovely red from the medieval town of Montepulciano, near Siena, not to be confused with the ubiquitous wine from the Abruzzo region made with Montepulciano grapes. (€8.99, Lidl).
Domaine Begude, Pinot Rose – Gorgeous dry rose from Limoux in the South of France. (€11, SuperValu)
Wines from this estate are organically cultivated.
Domaine Begude, ‘Le Secret du Sud’ Gewurztraminer. More usually associated with Alsace, this is a dry but aromatic white. Perfect for Asian cuisine. (€12, SuperValu)