The social drinker
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.