Monday, October 12, 2015

Top 10 reasons to reduce excise duty

Top 10 reasons why Michael Noonan should reduce excise duty on wine in Budget 2016


There are so many reasons to reduce excise duty on wine, it is hard to narrow it down to just 10, but here goes:

     Irish politicians see wine just as money

1.       Excise duty on wine is the highest in the EU, completely off the scale at €3.19 per bottle and a bubble-bursting €6.38 per bottle for sparkling wine. Our nearest rivals are the UK and Scandinavian countries, but we have raced into the lead in the last two years. Think about this – we pay 106 times more than the French while the Germans pay no duty at all. Zero!


2.       Excise duty has increased by 62% in budgets 2013/2014 – with the government now raking in an extra €150million per year just from wine. Why has it been targeted in this way? Is it because it is a soft target or because policy is being made by beer-swilling troglodytes who know no culture aside from agriculture? Soft target, probably.


3.       Wine is taxed more,  proportionally, than other alcohol products. Even though beer and spirits have stupidly high taxes on them, wine has been singled out and taxed higher than everything else.


                                      Michael Noonan talking to wine drinkers

4.       It’s tough on small businesses. Small wine shops and independent off-licences have families whose livelihoods are dependent on them being able to compete with supermarkets, who are able to sell wine below cost and then overcharge you for milk or whatever to make up the difference. Small businesses can’t do that and have to pass on wine duty increases in full.


5.       It’s anti-competitive and anti-European – entry level wine costs at least double in this country than in France or Spain. Why should Paddy have to pay double what Pierre or Carlos pays? Why?


6.       It’s anti-jobs. Wine companies in Ireland have been shutting down or shedding jobs directly as a result of the increases in wine duty. Conversely, imagine the boost to cross-border trade if wine was cheaper in Dundalk than Newry?



7.       Wine is both civilised and civilising – it is a drink to be enjoyed in moderation and with food. It makes food taste better and your friends better company.


          Civilised wine shop


8.       Wine is not the enemy. The sight of people drunk in the street, fighting and clogging up A&E is obviously a menace to society and a concern for us all. However, I don’t think these people have been drinking a nice glass of Gevrey Chambertin or a crisp, fresh Sancerre. More likely beer, cider, vodka, tablets, cocaine – maybe all of the above. But not wine. It’s a mentality change we need, not more tax on  wine drinkers.


9.       Wine is good for you! Not in a makey-up “Guinness is good for you” way, but actually, scientifically-proven good for you. In moderation, of course. A glass of red a day is rich in anti-oxidants and helps your digestive system. It’s practically medicine, except it tastes good.
10.    Just like the rest of the country, the wine trade needs a break. It's been a tough 7-8 years with many casualties along the way. Some breathing space would be nice...


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

My take on Natural Wine

 My Take on Natural Wine

The Natural wine movement has been gathering steam for a number of years now,  as a growing number of winemakers are choosing to go down the natural route and many consumers are seeking out these wines in the hope of finding a more authentic and natural wine experience.

So, what is Natural Wine?
As with many things in the wine world, a definition that everyone can agree on is somewhat elusive. However, most agree that for a wine to be described as Natural with a capital N, it needs to have the following attributes:
  • Vineyard practices need to be organic (no chemicals, pesticides etc) or preferably biodynamic (that’s another story)
  • Only natural yeasts used in fermentation
  • Minimal intervention in the cellar – no chaptalization (adding sugar) or tinkering with acidity levels (which is often legal, depending on local regulations)
  • Minimal or no filtration
  •   Minimal or no SO2
The theory is that by intervening as little as possible with the winemaking progress, that the wines will express fully and more accurately where they come from and the characteristics of the grape variety. This sounds like a worthwhile aspiration although I’m not convinced that the average consumer is that bothered about whether a wine reflects its terroir or not – most just want a nice glass of wine. Anyway, the idea is to get a more authentic wine and that is probably a good thing. Fans of natural wines also argue that, because the product is made with no chemicals it is easier on the planet and easier on the person drinking the wine, more digestible and without the nasty side effects (headaches etc) that some people get from drinking wine. This could well be true, it seems to make sense, although there is little empirical research to prove it conclusively.
Does the wine live up to its noble aspirations?
This is where it gets complicated and it is an area of considerable controversy. There are many people in the wine trade who argue that natural wines are riddled with faults and that, far from being an improvement, they are actually a step backward in terms of winemaking.  David Gleave, the owner of large UK importer Liberty Wines (he knows what he is talking about) went as far as to dedicate the introduction to last year’s wholesale list explaining why they were not embracing  natural wines. Tim Atkin, a respected writer with vast experience (he also knows what he is talking about) is always banging on in favour of natural wines.

In Ireland, the natural wine drum is being banged most loudly and successfully by Pascal from Kilkenny-based importers Le Caveau and they have probably the widest range of natural wines in the country – see .

What do I think?
My own focus has always been on what is in the bottle rather that what the winemaker believes. On one hand, I think the extra care and attention that is required in the vineyard to make this work does sometimes result in better wine. On the other hand I have been at natural wine tastings where maybe as much as 50% of the wines are faulty to the point where, if I ordered them in a restaurant I would send them back, and yet the winemaker is unwilling to admit that there is anything wrong.

So, as with anything to do with wine, there are good and bad wines under the natural wine umbrella – I would never buy a wine just because it is natural, but I do often seek them out because when they are good, they are very good indeed. The good news is that tasting them to find out is good fun.

Here are three  reds that are made using natural wine principles but are really great wines in their own right.

Gran Cerdo Tempranillo (imported by Le Caveau) €15

Gran Cerdo means “big pig” and is
dedicated to the bankers who refused to back his winemaking vision. Unoaked tempranillo – clean, juicy, fruity and balanced. Great with ham (seriously!)


COS Cerasuolo, Sicily (imported by On the Grapevine and Cabot &
Co) €30

Giusto Occipinti has been at the forefront of quality Sicilian winemaking for many years now and was making natural wine before anyone had even heard of the term. A blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato, this is delicious, fresh and juicy but complex and long with a perfect balance of fruit and tannin. One of those wines where one bottle is never enough.


Foradori Teroldego, Trentino (imported by Sheridans) €28

Elisabetta Foradori (good friend of Giusto from COS)
 is a great winemaker and makes this amazing wine
 from the local grape variety, Teroldego. Intense,
concentrated but elegant and very easy to drink, this is super stuff.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Rosé with Cojones

I got soaked playing football last night, properly soaked, wringing water from my jersey, squelchy boots, the whole thing. So I have officially given up on summer, but I haven't given up on Rosé just yet.

Rosé comes in many different guises - we can draw a veil over the style that probably sell the most - sweetish pink wines that might even have the word "blush" on the label. I'm blushing just thinking about it.

The we have the Southern French Rosés in various guises which probably hit their peak in Provence - usually dry, pale in colour, quite delicious and easy to drink. That said, they are sometimes too delicate when they meet the food that results from your average Irish BBQ - burgers, sausages, chicken wings - not the most elegant food at the best of times, but when grilled to various levels of incineration as is usually the case, you really need a wine (or beer) that will stand up and be counted.

Spanish Rosados are usually made from Garnacha (Grenache) and are usually higher in colour, higher in alcohol and more robust.

Arzuaga, sandwiched as they are in between Pingus and Vega Sicilia are rightly renowned as being one of the leading producers of Ribera del Duero, and their wines are full on- fruit and oak are usually equally matched but nevertheless are quite extrovert in their style. On a visit earlier in the year, I was curious to try their Rosado, made from Tempranillo, not Grenache.

This is a full-on Rosé, light in colour, but medium bodied and with loads of lovely summer fruits, concentrated enough to take on pretty much any food you care to throw its way. The elegant bottle, printed to avoid the label coming off in the ice bucket, might make you think this is a gentle, feminine wine, but don't be fooled, this is a Rosé with cojones!

(It's also an excellent hangover cure, as I discovered after a night of over-indulgence in Arzuaga's amazing hotel the previous night!)


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Price 'em up to knock 'em down

The above is a very nice Montepulciano d'Abruzzo from a producer called Zaccagnini - it is a wine that we have carried pretty much since we started up - it is a very pleasant, juicy mid-priced Montepulciano, fair value for its price which used to be sub €15, now you will find it in many independents priced around €17-18 after the duty increases in recent budgets. We call it "Twiggy" because of the little stick tied on to the front.

Still, at €17.95 I think it represents reasonable value for money.

Then I see it in Supervalu on promotion at €15 - I don't particularly mind this as we occasionally get undercut by retailers with bigger purchasing power than us and we try to respond as best we can if this happens. However, what surprised me was that it was on promotion as reduced from €23 down to €15!

This is a wine which was never €23 and for Supervalu to try and portray this as a 35% discount when it is clearly a (max) 16% discount is, in my view a blatant attempt to swindle consumers.

This is an issue which I think should be tackled with more vigour by our wine writers but perhaps they shy away from it given that the main culprits also happen to be major newspaper advertisers....

There is a consumer story here that, if it was on bread or milk, would be a major scandal, but wine apparently is fair game for this kind of malpractice.

Anyway, Twiggy, now only €15! Reduced from €18.....

Friday, March 20, 2015

Sweet 16

We are 16 years old this week, so we are offering 20% of all wine this weekend (Friday and Saturday) if you buy 6 bottles or more.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Grand stretch in the evenings

Happy Thursday

Due to popular demand, we will be back open till 8.30pm now on Thursdays (as well as Friday & Saturday) - our €5 corkage deal is now available EVERY DAY!

Next Wine Event

A date for you Diary - Friday, March 6th - we will have our friends from Villa Locatelli / Angoris in beautiful Friuli over early March and we will be hosting a wine dinner in Fitzpatricks Killiney Castle on the date at 7.30pm - we will have a sparkling wine reception and the taste 4 wines with a matching menu from the team in Fitzpatricks - all for €45. Book your place with Carol as usual on 01 2353054 and we will have more info closer to the time.

Wine Deal for the next few weeks

Also from Friuli, Pradio are lovely wines and we have their Sauvignon Blanc and Refosco on a 2 for €30 deal at the moment - a saving of €3 per bottle. They will be open over the weekend if you want to try them.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Wine Dinner in Beaufield Mews - February 6th

Ok, January is nearly over so we feel in need of a decent Wine Dinner and where better to start than with 2 of our favourite places - Bordeaux and Beaufield Mews.

We have Lionel Latorse from Vignobles Latorse coming over to guide us through a range of wines from AC Bordeaux Sec through to Saint Emilion Grand Cru and we will match it with some classic dishes in the warm and elegant surrounds of Beaufield Mews.

It all kicks off on Friday, February 6th at 7.30pm with a drinks reception and will follow with a delicious 3 course dinner with wines to match.

The cost for all your food and wine is €50 per person.

We hope you can join us for what will be a special evening.