Q: I’m having a gang around for a casual afternoon lunch. I’ll be serving a variety of dishes, including salads and vegetarian. A few of my guests are knowledgeable about wine – but I’m not. Is there a wine that will impress everyone and go with most foods too? My budget is €20.
A: As it happens, I was asked this very question by my friend John recently. For a white wine, I suggested an albariño from Rías Baixas in Spain. They usually have plenty of fruit and acidity, and therefore go well with a range of foods, including fish, chicken and salads, as well lightly spicy Mediterranean tomato-based dishes. You will find Rías Baixas in most supermarkets, and O’Briens stock half a dozen.
Alternatives include Muscadet or Soave, two old favourites, but these might be a little bit too light in fruit. Instead I would probably go for a richer style of Grüner Veltliner, a wine that will happily partner a wide variety of foods. Marlborough Sauvignon is one of the most popular wines, but your wine buff friends might prefer something a little more unusual. A New Zealand Riesling would certainly get them more excited.
On the same theme, I suggested a lighter red, less than 14 per cent alcohol and without any tannins. In John’s case I went for an unoaked wine made from the mencía grape. These wines come from the northwest of Spain, usually either from Ribeira Sacra or Bierzo, and are very popular among wine lovers. Mencía is available from independent wine shops. Alternatives would include all kinds of Beaujolais, a lighter Valpolicella or a New World pinot noir.