Highs and lows

Wine reviews – By Michael Wolsey

When I told an American woman I had bought some Californian wine she laughed. “That’s what we drank at college,” she said. “It was all we could afford.”

She had, in fact, never tasted the wine in question and I doubt very much if she could have afforded it at college.

But she had perfectly caught the problem with Californian wines. Some of them are cheap and pretty unpleasant, like water flavoured with a little grape juice and a lot of sugar. The good ones come from excellent vineyards and producers in Sonoma and Napa. They are wines of distinction and quality but they are not cheap.

They are made by skilled artists, as proud of their produce as their counterparts in France or Spain.

Here are a few good ones. I got all the prices from O’Briens but you can buy most of them from independent dealers and the cheapest (the term is relative) from supermarkets.

Murphy Goode Chardonnay (€19.95). This wine is very slightly oaked. Its citrus tastes – apple and lemon- are lighter than most of its French equivalents.

Teac Mor Chardonnay (€26.95). Another Chardonnay, but quite different with a somewhat creamy taste and a hint of hazlenut. The family originated in Galway, thus the name.

Schramsberg Traditional Method Sparkling (€40). Made in the same way as Champagne. It is also from the Chardonnay grape and leaves a hint of honey on the palate.

Inglenook Pennino Zinfandel (€60). A lovely red wine with hints of spice and vanilla, perfect with red meat, stews, or cheese. I was served this by a friend – in my opinion €60 is too much to pay for a bottle of wine, no matter how good it is.