Belfast Telegraph

Just what the doctor ordered from JN Wines this Christmas

Doctors Riesling wine
Doctors Riesling wine

By Paula Gracey

It’s a red letter date in my calendar every November and it signifies the start of the festive season for me.

James Nicholson’s ‘Meet the Winemakers’ tasting is a real celebration of wine where you can mingle with fellow wine lovers and taste a huge variety of wines as well as speaking to the winemakers themselves.

Belfast’s opulent Merchant Hotel was again the venue and I made it just in time to see the pattern on the carpet – after about half an hour, the room is so full of fellow wine enthusiasts sipping and sampling you can hardly see the floor… the noise level rises and the atmosphere is buzzing.

Some folks have a plan and start with the fizz, then onto the whites and reds, finishing with the Ports perhaps. Others just dive in at their favourite but whatever you decided you will a;ways find something new and make friends along the way.

I began with all good intentions and started my journey at Table 1, Forrest Estate from New Zealand. It yielded a new find right away – Albarino from New Zealand, keenly priced at £14.  Normally associated with north west Spain, Albarino is a real favourite of mine so I was interested to try the New Zealand variety.

This one is bright yellow in colour and has aromas of white flowers, citrus and hints of minerality.  On the palate it is medium bodied with zingy citrus and white fruit flavours and of course, that familiar minerality – absolutely delish and perfect with seafood.

Doctors Riesling 2018 from NZ was next into my tasting glass – don’t you wish your doctor would prescribe Riesling?

It is actually named after the husband and wife wine makers themselves, Doctors John and Brigid Forrest. Their creation is a joyous, easy drinking wine with delicious crisp Granny Smith apple favours as well as lemon and lime. It is light and fresh with a pleasant mouthfeel and hint of sweetness. Just what the doctor ordered!

Table 2 featured wines by Antonio Zanon from Italy – the Sodevo Pinot Grigio was fab while the Zuani Vigne Collio Bianco 2017 (£17.50) is a very interesting blend of four white grape varieties and has a variety of different fruity and herby aromas. On the palate, you get lots of rich fruit with a dry finish – great with fish, white meats and pasta dishes.

At this point, we got chatting to friends and made a bit of a detour to Table 8 and Ana Belen with her Very Fine Vinos from Spain. She had three white wines, all new to me, and the first white really stood out.

This was Bodegas Katxine Txakoli 2017 which she explained is from the Basque area of northern Spain. Made from a local grape variety, the fermentation is stopped during the wine making process producing a slight fizz – really refreshing and great everyday drinking wine. When in San Sebastian you will find every bar and restaurant serving this wine, apparently!

Also check out her Dominio Granadilla Rueda 2018 and Altos De Torona Albarino 2018 – all great whites for under £14.

Now we start to ping pong around the tables and the plan goes to pot. We had some fab fizz from Portugal – Aspumante Alvarinho 2018 and the Espumante Rose 2017 - both £17.95 and crackers for Christmas celebrations.

Many tables later we started on the reds. Roberta Ribezzo, from Finca Baraca in Spain, talked us through her wines, starting with the wonderfully named Crazy Grapes 2018 (£10) which is the perfect tapas wine, then on to Pirapu Crianza 2018 and Pirapu 2015 - we stayed quite some time at that table.

Over to France next for a beautiful Bourgogne Chardonnay and then Montagny 1er Cru 2016 which is apparently excellent with frogs legs (but they taste like chicken, right?).  We basically sipped, chatted, tasted and scribbled some illegible notes as we made our way around the room, having a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

If you missed it, check out or visit their Crossgar store for some great Christmas wine and gift ideas.

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