The so­cial drinker

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - BITES - Tom Mol­loy

Pick­ing wine when you are throw­ing a large party or host­ing a bar­be­cue is tricky. You need a wine that is a crowd pleaser as well as be­ing flex­i­ble and, let’s face it, rea­son­ably priced.

O’Briens does a nice range of ba­sic wines that fits the bill. Its most pop­u­lar party wines are from a Lis­bon-based wine maker which makes a red called Julia Florista Tinto, and a white called Julia Florista Branco. The lat­ter is sell­ing for €7.95 at the mo­ment, and usu­ally comes in at €9.95.

Nei­ther of these wines will amaze your palate, but they are that rare thing in Ire­land; a rea­son­able ev­ery­day wine at a rea­son­able ev­ery­day price. I pre­fer the white, which has pleas­ant cit­rus notes; the red seems thin­ner, but at these prices it is churl­ish to com­plain.

The wine is clev­erly pack­aged with a colour­ful, dreamy light-hearted la­bel that could have been drawn by Por­tu­gal’s answer to Pauline Bewick — a use­ful vis­ual aid if you want to swoop in and out of a shop in a minute or two.

Why most wines con­tent them­selves with such dull la­bels has al­ways been a mystery, but it re­flects the woe­ful lack of real innovation in the wine mak­ing in­dus­try.

The same vine­yard also pro­duces a much bet­ter red called Porta 6 (with an­other un­usual la­bel de­pict­ing a Lis­bon tram), which is also avail­able from O’Briens at the higher price of €12.95.

This is an al­to­gether dif­fer­ent sort of wine to its cheaper cousins, and well worth spend­ing the ex­tra cash if you want to serve some­thing mem­o­rable at your party.

Made from Por­tuguese grapes such as Caste­lao and Touriga Na­cional, it comes with hints of ripe black­berry and has won a sil­ver medal at two heavy­weight com­pe­ti­tions in Europe, as well as crash­ing the web­site of its UK dis­trib­u­tor when it was de­scribed by a chef on a show called Satur­day Kitchen as one of the nicest wines he has tasted in 10 years.

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