John Wilson: Two star wines to try from your local independent off-licence

Wines for the Weekend: A light, refreshing white from Veneto, in northern Italy, and a smooth, rounded Rioja, from northern Spain

The National Off-Licence Association, which represents 315 independent off-licences, has just selected its 48 Star Award wines, covering every style and price, at its annual blind tastings. I’ve picked two of them today; they’re available from Noffla members across Ireland.

Custoza is a village near Lake Garda, in Italy. Producers are allowed to use up to 11 different grapes in their light, refreshing white wines. This one is made from a blend of four local varieties: Friulano, Garganega, Trebbiano Toscano and Cortese. Don’t be put off by the unfamiliar names: the wine is very good.

We love Rioja in Ireland, so it’s no surprise that two wines from the Spanish region were included in the winners. The Rioja Vega below has spent a short period in oak, giving it vanilla and spice to go alongside the fruit.

Custoza Bianco 2021, Cantina di Custoza, Veneto, €13.95 from Noffla members

A light, refreshing dry wine with clean pear and apple fruits. Perfect on its own — this is a great party wine — or with lighter fish dishes; perhaps fish and chips.


Rioja Vega 2020 Semi Crianza, €11.99 from Noffla members

Lightly oaked with dark fruits, subtle coffee and vanilla. Smooth and rounded, this would go nicely with grilled lamb chops or a bean-and-tomato gratin.