Saturday, December 27, 2008

Wines over the Christmas

How did your wine fare over the Christmas period? Good, I hope. Everybody wants a decent drop over Christmas and we had lots of queries about what to drink on Christmas Day. I always think there are so many variables on Christmas Day that is is better to drink something you like and are comfortable with (from both taste and price points of view) that trying to drink the best bottle ever or to try and match it perfectly with turkey ( and ham, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sprouts and all the rest...). However, we always go for some sort of Pinot Noir as it is our favourite grape variety and it does seem to go well with turkey, its silky tannins and delicate fruit going well with a good turkey. This year we had a bottle of Mugneret Gibourg Vosne Romanee 2002 hanging around so we thought it would be a good runner. It was delicious, concentrated yet silky and with delicious, pure fruit. We didn't quite finish the bottle, on Christmas Day, so there was one glass left for me last night and it was even nicer.

We preceded dinner with some smoked salmon, accompanied by Roederer Rose 2002. I have always thought that Roederer Rose was one of the nicest Roses on the market and the 02 is no exception. A pale, delicate salmon pink colour, with delicious fragrant but fresh strawberry fruit and the characteristic Roederer elegance, concentration and balance. Really excellent.

On St. Stephens Day, we had the second portion of Christmas Dinner, but went for white this time. I got a present of a couple of Riedel Vinum Extreme Chardonnay glasses which are really quite beautiful. Into these amazing glasses, I poured the Chavy Meursault Narvaux 2006. I know that this wine is only a baby, but when it is so delicious, why wait. Chavy's wines always have an energy, a nervosite about them that I really like. In the Meursault, the typical roundness and broadness is matched really well with Philippe's style and results in a delicious balanced wine with perfectly judged oak and no hint of fatness or over-ripeness.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The latest crisis...

As we lurch from one crisis to the next with no let-up in the bad news, the last thing we needed was to have our sausages taken away from us! Aren't the builders in enough trouble without taking away their breakfast rolls? Is it a genuine crisis or just another example of a botched knee-jerk reaction from a government who can't manage to dress itself in the morning?

From what I have read, around 2% of products are affected and you would have to gorge yourself on the stuff for thirty years before there is an effect. We have all been eating the stuff since september at least so why the big panic now? An entire industry is put in peril for this? Or is there something more sinister that we don't know about?

A whole lot of questions, but no answers, what's new?

The good news is there are no wine scares to worry about.

And, if we find any, we will kick it into January when everybody gives it up for a few days anyway.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Don't we look festive?

Carol did a great job on the window this year, dontcha think?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bob Geldof was right

We had a pretty shabby weekend's drinking, between using up samples and trying slightly over-the-hill bottles, we didn't fare too well so we decided to have a bottle last night. We normally try to stay off the booze on Monday and Tuesday to try and be good, but it was cold, we had a long day and a bowl of pasta to eat.

So it was Chateau La Brande 2005. This is a Cotes de Castillon owned by the Todeschini family, who also own up-and-coming St. Emilion Grand Cru, Chateau Mangot. In fact, it is really all the one property as the two are separated by the road that divides st. Emilion from Cotes de Castillon. We were really impressed with the La Brande - it is a blend of 70% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Franc and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged in oak. It is quite full-bodied, ripe fruit with nice tannic grip and a long, smooth finish. Very pleasant wine, drinking well now but will develop for another 5 or so years, I would think. We finished the bottle which is always a good sign.

It certainly made the first day of this week much better than usual. Now I realise why I don't like Mondays...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Christmas Wine Dinner

Moving on from the bah humbug below onto more cheerful things. Our annual wine dinner is taking place on December 9th in Benito's in Dalkey. Benito's just got a really good review by Paolo Tullio and we are preaching the good news about shopping local, so we are doing the same ourselves. Camillo always looks after us well anyway. Italian theme, as you would expect with Benito's doing the food and we will provide some interesting bits and pieces, wine-wise.

Not a turkey in sight.

If you would like to join us, it is €60 per head, all in, including wine. Call Carol on 01 2353054 for further info on a great night out.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The natives are getting restless....

As bank shares continue to plunge, people's pensions and stock options disappear down a black hole and the government dithers with even more panache than usual, there is growing unrest in the wine trade about cashflow, getting paid by customers and the real threat of businesses disappearing overnight. There are unfounded rumours flying around the trade about who isn't paying their bills, who is taking whom to court and who is going out or has already gone out of business. Such a level of uncertainty only feeds the nervousness that is already there.

There is no doubt that the banks have closed down the shutters in terms of credit flexibility and that is having a big effect down the foodchain. The banks seem to be in denial about it, the government haven't a clue what to do, meanwhile jobs are being lost.

It could be worse, though, it could be raining.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Good producer + bad vintage=?

We had a bottle of Chateau de Saint Cosme Gigondas 2002 at the weekend and it was delicious. 2002 was a disastrous vintage in the Rhone. It was dampish in many places in Europe (Bordeaux and Tuscany both had ropy vintages that year as well), but in the Rhone it was biblical, with some vineyards submerged under water. As a result, the vintage was written off and we found it difficult to shift the 2002, especially when the amazing 2003s came in. AS a result, we sold off some of the 02 at a good price and I kept a few bottles for myself. It now has still lovely fruit concentration and is getting some nice farmyardy stuff going on. It was delicious.

My point is that good producers will make good wine, regardless of the vintage. If they are proud of what they do, they won't put their name on the label unless it is up to scratch. Another example is Poliziano who, in 2002, made no Asinone, put the Asinone grapes into the Vino Nobile, used the Vino Nobile grapes for the Rosso and sold the rest to the co-op, taking a huge financial hit, but maintaining a high level of quality. So, ignore "vintage reviews", trust the producer, but, most of all, taste the wine and judge for yourself.

Pity it didn't work out with Louis, but anyway...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

As I was saying....

Right on cue, going past O'Brien's in Dalkey the other day and they have already decked their halls with bells and holly, fa la la la la. Boy, will they be sick looking at it by the time Christmas Eve comes around. For all you Santa-lovers out there, you will be disappointed to know that we won't be putting any decorations up until December.

I'm sure we will compensate by being jollier than the competition!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

When does Christmas start?

With the unveiling of the Christmas tree resulting in the inevitable gnashing of teeth and sending of letters to the Irish Times, I think it is appropriate to ask: "Just when does Christmas begin?"

To answer the question properly, we have to go back to mid-June and the start of the back-to-school promotions. These are followed by Halloween tat for sale usually for all of September and October. With a short break for my mother's birthday on November 1st, then Christmas typically starts on November 2nd. As a harbinger of the recession, last year's New Year's Sales started around December 15th - expect something similar this year. Valentine's Day will then replace New Year's Day on January 1st and St. Patricks Day will be on February 14th. Easter will be on March 17th, regardless of when it actually is. Summer sales will start in April to be followed by more back-to-school offers, and on it goes....

Of course, in all of this, we have to remember the true meaning of Christmas - getting presents and drinking and eating till you burst.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Good places for wine....

I had a trade tasting on Wednesday in Ely CHQ in which we tasted our full Italian range. We hadn't done a trade tasting in quite a while so it was a relief to see just how well received our wines always are at these kind of things. Right through the range, the professionals who turned up enjoyed the wines and were really excited about them. Ely is a fantastic place to do a tasting by the way. In fact I have been in the all three Elys recently in various states from professional wine visit to late night "last bottles" and it just reminded me that they are great places for wine lovers and deserve our support.

I also did a tasting on Friday evening for Beaufield Mews staff, again mainly Italian wines. The wines went down well, but what always strikes me about John's list is the value on offer. The pricing policy in this venerable south Dublin establishment is among the most civilised in the city. Anybody who likes wine should check this out as the list is really good and really well-priced. A list of this quality is a rarity.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Wine Fair this Thursday

Our 10th Annual Wine Fair is on this Thursday, 6th November in Fitzpatricks, Killiney Castle from 6pm to 9pm.

This is always a great chance to try a whole range of wines that you think you might like or to try to extend your wine repertoire or just to try expensive stuff that you wouldn't normally buy. Whatever your reason, it is always a good night - highly recommended to leave the car at home!

The calm exterior on the faces of all of us working there on the night usually hides the last minute panic that inevitably ensues in trying to put on an event like this. Mind you, Carol has been in charge of organising it this year so there is a good chance that everything will run smoothly. If she comes back from Italy, that is.

Anyway, come along if you can, we would be delighted to see you.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Christmas to be cancelled - Brian Cowen

Government sources have said that T-Shock Brian Cowen will make a televised address later this week to clarify the latest deal on the medical cards. It is also expected that he will make the shock announcement that Christmas will be cancelled. Measures include:

- banning of Christmas decorations
- banning of Christmas carols (Jingle Bells will have a mandatory prison sentence)
- banning of Christmas presents
- turkeys to be replaced with corned beef, coddle or triple decker butter sandwiches
- anybody caught smiling or being cheerful in any way will be arrested and fined
- parties will be banned (not political parties - just fun parties)

This new policy will be overseen by a new government body - the Miserable Bastards Authority - with a staff of 240 people and an annual budget of €650 million. The MBA will be responsible for enforcement - doing spot-checks on businesses to make sure nobody is selling Christmas presents or organising parties or engaging in other soon-to-be-illegal behaviour.

It is thought the MBA will be fast-tracked to be up and running by January 2009.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Some interesting wines from Mitolo

I'm a bit tired at the moment as I have been out for the last three nights on the trot and I can't hack this burning the candle at both ends stuff any more. We have had a busy week workwise as well as we are getting ready for the Wine Fair next Thursday which takes quite a lot of work.

Anyway, the good news is that I had a couple of interesting wines during the week. On Wednesday, we went to McCormacks in Mounttown which has re-vamped the menu. It's really nice food and great value. Unfortunately, the wine list is still brutal (it's all from one supplier, Febvre) and the only vaguely drinkable red on it was the Conde de Valdemar Rioja Crianza which was fine. The couple of pints of Guinness were nice as well.

We fared rather better wine wise on Thursday as we were invited out to dinner in the Merrion with Ben Glaetzer (well renowned Oz winemaker). Ben does 2 ranges of wines - his own winery in Barossa makes a fine range of wines ranging from the heartland range to the famous and impossible-to-get Amon Ra. It was his other range, Mitolo, that we focussed on on Thursday, however. This is a joint venture between Ben and Frank Mitolo in Mclaren Vale and the wines are really very good.

We started off with Jester Rose, made from Sangiovese which was as you would expect - fresh and fruity.

Then we had the Jester Cabernet Sauvignon which has very nice Cabernet fruit, maybe a tad astringent, but quite nice.
Jester Shiraz was nicer, round and plump with a silky texture and tons of fruit.

Reiver Shiraz is their only offering from the Barossa and is an excellent example.
GAM Shiraz from McLaren Vale was a softer style, maybe a bit more elegant.
Savitar Shiraz was huge, concentrated and delicious with excellent balance and length.
Serpico Cabernet is made using dried grapes so is like an Australian Cabernet Amarone if that makes any sense. On first sip, it is pure Cabernet, albeit very concentrated. Once it opens up, though, the more complex dried fruit character comes through. This was very interesting winemaking and, all in all, a really nice evening.

The food and service in the Merrion was excellent, as usual.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bank Holiday wines

Continuing from the theme below, we tried some mid-price samples from Bordeaux yesterday - we are always looking for good clarets that we can sell in the €15-20 region, but the wines really need to over-perform for us to commit to buying a pallet of the stuff as it is a big commitment to buy the wine, pay duty and vat upfront and store the stuff at home. We really need to be happy with the wine and, as a result, we have to taste a lot of dross before we find the needle in the haystack. Unfortunately, yesterday's tasting was more of the usual stuff - 3 hard, tannic wines. 2 of the 3 were not bad - well made, reasonable wines, but hard enough to drink. The last one was rough out, nice presentation but it was like something you would get in the Superquinn French wine "sale" - it might be "was €24.99 now €14.99" - it has the name, nicely presented but the wine was poor.

We also had a bottle of Castello di Brolio 1997. At the time, this was as good as Chianti got and I decided to stash a bottle of the famous 97 vintage away and see what it was like. And so, on Sunday, we tried it. It still had plenty of life, nice secondary fruit but it was as austere as anything. Those tannins will never soften, I think. Fresh Chianti acidity and bitter cherry fruit made this a very typical Chianti. Did we enjoy it? Yes, but we didn't finish the bottle, as when the food was gone, we just couldn't drink it on its own.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Romantic Bordeaux

I'm a big fan on Bordeaux, I really think, when they get it right, they are possibly the best wines on the planet. When it comes to Bordeaux, the five First Growths - Lafite Rothschild, Mouton Rothschild, Latour, Margaux and Haut Brion - reign supreme. These are the best of the best and they aren't shy about it. Each year, they pretty much set the price levels for all the wines below them in the 1855 classification as they magically (I'm sure it is a coincidence) all release their en primeur prices around the same time and within a euro or so of each other. It really is a wonderful example of competition at work.

Anyone who can't detect the sarcasm may need to reboot their computer.

I have been disenchanted with en primeur for a while now, but on a recent trip to Bordeaux, I was told something interesting. Latour have just bought vineyards (within Pauillac, but not adjacent to their own vineyards) and the even bought some land with a newly built house on it, demolished the house and will presumably plant vines. The interesting about this is that it all falls within Chateau Latour and so the land automatically becomes First Growth. Now, it may be that they will use the vines for their second or third wines, but they don't have to. In fact, they could buy the land of a neighbouring second growth, for example, at a price of around €2M per hectare and "convert" it to first growth land, which is worth around €5M per hectare. Not bad.

Now, I can talk terroir as much as they next man, but what will the grapes from the demolished house site taste of? I can see the tasting notes now: cassis, cigar box, spice and a hint of breezeblock....

As I said, I am a huge fan of Bordeaux, but the truth is that very few can afford to drink the top wines and lower down the scale, quality can be mixed. Huge strides have been made to improve quality across the board, but they need to continue to work hard as good wine is being made all over the world these days and basking in the reflected glory of the first growths doesn't really cut it any more.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I am a taxman

I worked out the other week that, in an average year, our company would pay more than a quarter of a million euros to the government, when you include duty, VAT, PAYE etc. Duty makes up the bulk of it. Now, we are a tiny, insignificant speck on the Irish wine map, so imagine what the likes of Gilbeys, Irish Distillers or even O'Brien's must cough up. It doesn't bear thinking about.

I have no problems paying VAT or income tax, but duty just seems so archaic and out of touch with the reality of our EU membership, free movement of goods etc. Then, to increase it when it should be phased out, just goes to show what cultured and sophisticated leaders we have.

At least the money is put to good use with our world-leading health system and our well-equipped schools, not to mention our 21st century transport system....

I promise from now on, I will get back to waxing lyrical about the romance of the wine trade. I promise.

And as my 3 year old son says - "You can't break a promise".

Unless you are a politician.

Sorry, couldn't resist one last swipe. Romance tomorrow.

Monday, October 20, 2008


The U turn on medical cards is almost complete; the only thing that makes me think that maybe the whole medical cards fiasco wasn't a deliberate red herring, designed to take the public's mind off all the other calumny contained in the budget is that I'm not sure they are as clever as that. It seems now that Brian Cowen is a bumbling incompetent, just like his predecessor(s).

Anyway, back to wine....we had Paleo Rosso 1999 on Friday night, a blend of 85% cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, made by Le Macchiole from Bolgheri in Tuscany. This had really nice Cabernet fruit, but with acidity and tannins that spoke of its Tuscan roots. Delicious wine that demands good food, this has real character and the bootle seemed to empty itself with startling speed.

On Saturday, we were at a friends house and I had spent the night on Chateau Noaillac 2004, a very decent, mid price claret, drinking perfectly now. Later the night degenerated into more dangerous territory with grappa, mini guinness (whatever that was) etc, but I tried to behave as best I could.

Off the booze now for a few days....

Friday, October 17, 2008

Wine Fair November 6th

Our Annual Wine Fair is on Thursday November 6th in Fitzpatricks Killiney Castle from 6pm to 9pm.

As usual, we will have lots of stuff going on:

- Over 100 great wines open for tasting,
- Sheridans Cheese will have a table
- Gift Ideas
- Discounts for orders on the night
- Raffle for a magnum of Louis Roederer champagne

This is our 10th Wine Fair and we would really like a big crowd this year to help us start our tenth birthday celebrations!

So, put it in the diary, bring all your friends and come and have a great night! (The government can go and jump!)

Tickets are €15, available now in the shop.

Bordeaux stuff

I was in Bordeaux this week and visited a few different properties over the space of a couple of days. Chateau de Pez was first on the itinerary and I think their wines are really excellent now after 10 years or so of ownership by posh champagne house, Louis Roederer. Their sister vineyard, Haut Beausejour, is also good, but lighter in style. Their 2004 is drinking very nicely at the moment.

We had lunch in Pichon Lalande (I know, I know), a second growth in Pauillac whose chateau is surrounded by the vines of Chateau Latour. We had a very nice lunch accompanied by their second wine - Reserve de la Comtesse - from 1990, and from magnum. This was drinking really well, elegance personified. The next wine matched it for elegance, but trumped it for concentration and power - it was the Pichon Lalande 1989, also from magnum. Delicious and it kept flowing! Our gruelling agenda didn't involve any further engagements for the rest of the day. It was really the only way to survive the budget.

The next day we visited the charming owners of Rauzan d'Espagne in Entre deux Mers. This was a chance to try wines of more humble origin, but in surroundings that were much more "sympa". We had a lovely lunch and the wines were also very good, they are really committed to quality and they are a very smart operation.

The life of Brian

50 cents inclusive of VAT and not a whisper. Do you think the medical card thing is the red herring? I reckon it will be voted down by the backbenchers and then forgotten about. Meanwhile they will sneak in loads of other stuff while we are on the phone to Joe Duffy....

Do you think Brian Cowen is much of a wine drinker? I don't want to judge a book by its cover here or anything, but I would be surprised if he was. To hit wine and not beer or spirits just sends out the wrong message, doesn't it? It's like saying to the binge drinkers to keep getting stuck in to the vodka and red bulls and starting fights and getting their stomachs pumped in A&E. Meanwhile, you and I sitting at home having a nice glass of our wine with dinner are being penalised. Why? Because there is no wine lobby and so no-one to complain about it. Touch beer and spirits and you will have the publicans on the phone. Hit wine and you just queue up for your free flu jab with no fear of interruption. Once again, the government do the easy thing and not the right thing. Why we keep voting for these morons is beyond me.....

Monday, October 13, 2008

What's it going to be?

What do you think? 10c per bottle, 20c, 50c, more? With current duty running at 2.04 per bottle, not forgetting the 21% vat that gets thrown in as well, you would think we are already paying enough tax on wine, but it looks like it will go up tomorrow.

This isn't just a revenue-generation exercise though, although it will be presented as such. There have been anti-alcohol reports in the media all year and this is the predictable end result. There will be bigger and worse news in the budget, of course and a few red herrings thrown in to divert out attention away from the details, but a hike in excise duties will make a difficult market even worse.

Of course, I might be wrong, I will be quite happy if I am. I will be in Bordeaux tomorrow, missing the bad news. I will decide on Wednesday whether or not it's worth coming back.

Monday, October 6, 2008

How's business?

The "credit crunch" has taken over from the "celtic tiger" as the most overused cliche going around these days. In fact, I never thought I would say it, but I'm almost getting nostalgiac for the celtic tiger. The markets are tanking again today, it's like dealing with a manic depressive these days - elated one day and suicidal the next. The drugs don't seem to be working.

Almost everyone who comes in to the shop these days ask the question : "How's business?". There are any number of ways of answering this question, but I have started answering it with alarming honesty (alarming for them, not for me).

The truth is, since the middle of this year, consumer spending has fallen through the floor. There is an unwillingness to spend, even amongst those who have money. There is a nervousness about the near future and what it holds, understandable really with all the shit that is hitting the fan at the moment. July was ok, August was shockingly bad and Sept has been ok again. We will trade at a level lower than in recent years for the foreseeable future and we will just have to work hard to keep our customers and pick up new ones. We have always prided ourselves on high levels of customer service, but we need to up the ante on all aspects of our business.

People are still coming in, but are buying fewer bottles and are looking at the prices a bit more closely and looking for value. Our 10% off on Italy (in Sept) and France this month have been really well received, whereas we have done sales in the past with little or no reaction. The key will be to keep the quality as high as ever as this is THE most important aspect of value for money for us and without a focus on quality, we lose our raison d'etre.

So, bottom line? Reduce expectations, work harder and keep the quality higher than ever. Good news for our customers and if they are happy, we are happy. The wine trade (as any of you who work in it will know) is not particularly profitable; it is marginal at the best of times. We didn't make a killing during the boom times (we made a living!) and we would hope to see out the current downturn and come out the other side stronger than ever.

So, my response to people with the question outlined above is: "Support your local shops, they need your business". Not quite the "grand, not too bad" they were expecting, but they did ask...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Basic Bourgogne

John Wilson's article in today's Irish Times extols the virtues of entry level Bourgogne from good producers. He has our Darviot-Perrin Bourgogne blanc in the article, but I know from visiting Burgundy that this is a really good area for value, because these wines get the same TLC as the more famous wines by the same producers at prices a fraction of the cost.

By coincidence, I felt like something decent last night, so I had the Bourgogne Rouge from Mugneret Gibourg, who are one of the very best producers in Vosne Romanee. The estate is run by 3 very charming sisters and they produce beautiful wine with concentration, balance and a silky texture that runs through all their wines. This wine was from 2003, so slightly atypical, ripe but still beautiful balance and wonderful complexity. It is a wine that could easily have Vosne Romanee on the label, cost twice the price and you would still think it was great.

I think the 2005 vintage of this Bourgogne will be reviewed by John soon, interested to see what he thinks.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Credit Crunch wines

We had 10% off all our Italian wines last month and it got a really good reaction because everyone wants a little saving here and there and people realised and appreciated that it was a genuine 10% saving as opposed to a bogus 40% of 50% you get in supermarket sales.

Aaanyway, we are doing the same in October, but on French wines. It is linked with tastings on French wines each weekend, hope you can make it in at some stage.

This weekend we are tasting a Gewurztraminer from Dopff & Irion. This is a grape variety that, I have to admit, I have no great desire for. However, people who do like it, love it. This one is dry and is pretty decent example. We also have a bordeaux called Chateau Segonzac - this is very cleverly packaged beacuse all you can see on the label is "Grand Vin de Bordeaux", "Vieilles Vignes" and "Cru Bourgeois". The lowly appellation of Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux is in tiny writing on the bottom of the label. The wine, however, is very decent in the modern, fruity, forward style.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


We had agreat trip to Northern Italy last week (it has taken me a few days to get back to the computer), courtesy of Liberty Wines. I was going to do a big spiel about all the wines we tasted and all the food we ate, but I don't have the energy to write it and, to be honest, you probably would have the energy to read it, so I will spare us all the torture. Suffice to say, we were very well looked after with a packed schedule of tasting and 6 course lunches and 5 course dinners, lots of bus driving and not really very much sleep. The important thing is the wines so here is a very quick, top-of-mind impression af the places we visited.

Lorenzon - straight off the plane to visit this very nice family in Friuli, best known for their I Feudi di Romans label, from vineyards bordering the famous Vie di Romans. the wines were all clean, fresh, pure and good for their style and price. We were treated to a massive feast there for lunch which was just fantastic.

Livio Felluga - one of the historic names in Friuli. This winery was very different, very swish, stylish and looked like a lot of money had been spent on it (Lorenzon was much more earthy, which I prefer). The wines here are excellent, but very expensive and the reds underwhelmed.

Cantina Valpantena - this is a co-op in Valpolicella where Matt Thompson makes the Alpha Zeta range. It was fascinating to see a winery of this scale in operation, especially at harvest time. Wines are mixed.

Pieropan - one of my favourite wineries in Italy. We first visited their new red winery in Valpolicella where they have bought new vineyards and invested in a new cellar. It all looked very impressive and expensive. Their new red is called Ruberopan and, while very nice, I feel they are pitching it way too high in terms of price (it would be higher than their top white, La Rocca). I just feel they should launch it at a more reasonable level, let it develop a reputation and then rise the price as demand goes up (if it does!). The whites back in Soave were all impeccable, as usual. The Calvarino is still my favourite.

Allegrini - always a highlight, we visited all their most important vineyards, La Poja, La Grola nd Palazzo della Torre. We also went into their newly acquired Palazzo (after which the vineyard is named) which looks spectacular but needs work. we tasted the wines with dinner and they were all fantastic - I am a huge fan of these wines. The Valpolicella is an excellent example of its type; Palazzo makes otehr ripassos seem clumsy, La Grola is the epitomy of power and balance, La Poja is nice, but underwhems at the price, the Amarone is a classic in the modern style and the Recioto is excellent. Pretty sound range all round.

Ca dei Frati - into Lugana the next morning and I really liked these wines. The whole range, including the oaked ones were very well made, clean and long. Very nice people as well.

Monteforte - over lunch we tasted the wines from Monteforte, the smaller co-op in Soave and I liked the basic Soave Classico, but wasn't mad about the others we tasted.

Then it was off to the airport, tired but happy!!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

We're going to Italy

I am off tomorrow on a nice trip to visit some wineries from Liberty's portfolio over the next few days. We will visit Lorenzon, Felluga, Pieropan, Allegrini amongst others. I will report next week when I am back and try not to be too smug about it.....

Monday, September 22, 2008

The wrong question. again.

The eloquent Rosemary Garth is on the radio, arguing that putting up duty on the booze is a bad idea. Needless to say, I agree. There is also some old codger from some anti-alcohol group saying we drink too much saying that, compared to 21 years ago, per capita consumption is up 1.5%! Is this right? It seems very small, no?

Once again, it is not what we drink, but HOW we drink that is the problem. Drinking too much all at once and then falling around the streets, getting sick, starting fights and ending up in A&E is a good night out for some idiots. Why is this seen as a good thing? This is the question that needs to be answered.

The question that most people want to answer is "How can we screw more money out of the average wine/beer drinker and camouflage it as a health measure?".

As usual in this country, not only are we coming up with the wrong answers, we are not even asking the right questions.

Even I am getting bored thinking about it.....

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Yet more anti-drink hysteria...

Yes, here we go, there is a Dr. Smith on the radio saying that we should ban alcohol advertising, make it more expensive and difficult to buy.

The ultimate aim, he says, is to change our attitudes to drinking and being drunk. Using the southern European countries - Italy, Spain etc - as an example, he says it is an embarassment to be drunk, whereas here, it seems to be the whole point of drinking.

I agree with the ultimate aim and have myself used these countries as an example in the past. But I don't agree with how you get there. Let's compare North v South Europe for a moment.

Northern Europe - high taxes on alcohol, restricted availability and selling hours. Result: high consumption, major binge drinking and young people drunk on the streets. Periodic hand-wringing by ineffectual politicians.

Southern Europe - low or no taxes on alcohol, wide availability and alcohol on sale 24/7. Result: slim, attractive people sipping wine with their dinner and going about their business in civilised manner. Really nice weather as well.

We are supposed to be the Mediterraneans of the North (where did that come from?), so why not copy our swarthy cousins?

Who knows, maybe the weather might even improve!!


I see C&C have offloaded Findlater Grants to DCC for €9.6 million, which presumably will now be merged with DCC's wine arm, Woodford Bourne. I think the above name is kinda catchy, no?

What's in your wine?

I watched this programme last night with the above title and was expecting to cringe at the awful discoveries about to unfold. The truth was a bit more mundane with tales of producers adding sugar (knew that) and / or acid (knew about that), that big branded champagnes aren't much good (knew that) and that there are rogue producers doing all sorts of dodgy things (knew that).

There was a lot of concerned frowning and soft questioning, but little in the way of anything new or newsworthy.

The point of the programme seemed to be to campaign for labelling of ingredients on wine, a measure that I would be in favour of as the good producers would have nothing to hide. Of course, the large wine factories who hold all the power are dead set against it, so probably won't happen.

In the meantime, the advise she didn't give us was to choose wine made from trustworthy family wineries who are genuinely concerned to produce a wine that reflects their own philosophy, their family history and the origins of the wine rather than wine from factories which is confected to appeal to the lowest common denominator in terms of price and coca cola tastebuds. As I have said before, if you care about what you drink go and talk to your local wine merchant. If you don't, the supermarkets have plenty of choice, probably at "half price" ( see previous posts).

Monday, September 15, 2008

Here's to Irish restaurants....

Just back from Prague for the weekend and we had a fab time - beautiful city, great hotel (thanks again, Kieran - check out and was really impressed with the city in general. The prices for food and drink in the city centre were on a par with Dublin both in terms of price and quality.

I always find that when I am in a capital city abroad, the prices are as dear, if not more so, than Dublin. We all have stories of great meals at low prices at local restaurants abroead, but we have to be realistic and compare like with like. Firstly, that local restaurant has probably been in the family for generations and they don't have expensive leases to pay. Secondly, they have accesst ogreat, cheap local ingredients, something that is hard to get in Ireland. You can't compare a local place in the country in the south of Spain with your local restaurant in Dublin - it just isn't fair.

My experience is that prices are there or thereabouts and I know for a fact that the restaurant business is a hard one in which to make money. The same is true for retail, by the way, small retail is a tough way to make a living.

The ones that will survive the current downturn are the ones that offer fair value, good service and good product. WE certainly try to be in that group, but there is a shake-up on the way - watch out for casualties in small retail, restaurants and other sectors.

Your local restaurant is probably not trying to rip you off, so don't be too critical. If they are ripping you off, don't go!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Off to Prague

Pam and myself are off to Prague for the weekend on a non-wine tasting weekend. Looking forward to a few good beers over the weekend!

Will report when i get back.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Foradori Tasting this weekend

Continuing our Italian tour for September, this weekend we will be tasting wine from one of our favourite producers, Foradori. Elisabetta makes just 3 wines - 2 reds and a white. The reds are made from Teroldego Rotaliano, a variety rarely seen outside its home area of Trentino. Normally, this variety makes pretty shoddy wine, not helped by the large yields common in the area. Foradori wines are a world apart, however. They have a richness, complexity and balance that makes these some of the best reds from Northern Italy. The white is a blend of Sauvignon and local variety Incrocio Manzoni - delicious and unusual as well. Worth calling in to try.

We will also have a couple of wines from St. Michael Eppan - the Riesling Montiggl and the Pinot Bianco. These wines from Alto Adige are renowned for their freshness, purity of fruit and clean flavours.

Hope you can come along, tasting runs Friday - Sunday,

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Roederer Dinner

Demand for champagne continues to go through the roof worldwide, thanks to the nouveau riche in China and India. It's so vulgar, these people with lots of money. Anyway, to launch Roederer's new packaging (very smart) we were at a dinner in Harvey Nichols restaurant in Dundrum shopping centre (very bling).

I have to say I have always thought the Roederer non-vintage Brut Premier is one of the best champagnes on the market. Bollinger is nice as well, more full-bodied etc, but Brut Premier is always elegant and balanced and very classy. AS well has Brut Premier, we had the Rose which is delicious and very hard to get. Then we had Cristal 2002 which is already very tasty. but with a long life ahead of it. After that, we had Chateau de Pez 2003 from Saint Estephe (owned by Roederer). This was drinking beautifully, ripe, pure with soft tannins and a really nice glass. WE finished with the 10 YO Tawny from Ramos Pinto. Then more Brut Premier.

There was food as well which was excellent throughout.

Nothing like champagne on a Monday to get your week off to an appropriate start.

Bussola Valpolicella TB

Pieropan Soave 2007 is fresh delicate and delicious. Degani's stuff I have written about before and the Bussola Valpolicella TB was outstanding. This wine is more of an Amarone than a Valpolicella. Full, rich, Christmassy stuff with loads of complexity and character. Great, great wine. The only thing about it is, it is as volatile as Tommaso himself. Wild and funky on the nose, but that's not the only funny thing. I opened a bottle last Wednesday with Ian in Chapter One because I was keen to try it and so was he. I knew we had the tasting in the shop on Friday so I vacuumed it and kept it till Friday. By which time it was oxidised! This is a wine should get better being open for a couple of days, so I was a bit disappointed. So, if you buy this wine be sure you are in a position to drink it in one sitting. At 14.5% alcohol and flavour and body galore, just get yourself in the mood, that's all I'm saying. It's still gorgeous though.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Charity Balls

I was very kindly invited to charity ball in the Four Seasons on Saturday night (thanks, again Kieran) and it just occurred to me that these things seem so 2007 (not trying to sound like a Dalkey teenager). We had a great night as we were with people who are great fun and out for a good time, but a couple of things struck me about the whole scene...

These things seem to be populated by people who do this for a living, it's all fake tan and faker smiles, air kissing and haw hawing all round. But the mood was different this year. It just seemed a bit .... subdued. The lecture on the economy by the auctioneer before trying to get us to cough up large amounts of money for signed rugby jerseys and other assembled useless things didn't help to cheer anyone either.

Anyway, the wine was donated by somebody and it was Caliterra Sauv Blanc and Cabernet from Chile. All I can say about it is it was a nice natural way to curb your consumption of booze for the night. And no, before you ask, I can't afford to sponsor something better. Anyway, we hit the bar for pints of black stuff later on, so I easily reached my target consumption of units of alcohol for the week again.

It's not Dunnes...

Despite this morning's rant, don't think I have anything against Dunnes because I don't. I actually think they have some interesting wines at reasonable prices. It's just these stupid "sales" that seem to happen now in all the major multiples, Tesco and Superquinn if anything are worse.

Just sorry to see Dunnes are following the same route of duping their customers...

How come the wine journos don't pick up on these things? Surely they should be championing the consumer rather than writing massively inappropriate articles about Georgian wine the same week the country is getting pounded by Putin & Co.? Yes, that is you, Tomas Clancy, stop talking down the back!

Ok, I'm calming down now. Focus on the Roederer dinner I am going to tonight, nothing like a glass of Cristal to calm the nerves so long as someone else is paying. Mind you, I have a bone to pick with Searson's as well, but it will wait. Till tomorrow.

Dunnes Stores Bogus Sale

Dunnes has a Bordeaux sale on at the moment and it follows the fine tradition of supermarket wine sales by being completely bogus. This is how it works:

1. Import/buy a wine specifically for the sale.
2. Apply the normal margin and VAT to work out the retail price.
3. Add on the percentage that the consumer will "save".
4. Mark it back down to the "sale" price and advertise accordingly.

Thus, a wine that should normally sell for €6.99 will be advertised as "Was €13.99, Now €6.99 - SAVE 50%!!!

How people fall for this always amazes me.

Let me give you some examples from the Dunnes "sale".

Haut Medoc de Giscours 2002 - was €26.99, now €18.08. We have imported this wine for many years and the 2004 vintage currently sells in the shop at €19.99. We tasted the 2002 (offered to us at a lower price) and thought it wasn't up to scratch, so we moved straight from the 2001 to the 2004. There is no way this wine should ever be €26.99 so why advertise it as such?

Chateau Batailley 2002, Pauillac - was €49.99, now €29.99 save 40%! Again, the 2001 is available at a regular price of €39.99 - the watery 2002 should be a bit cheaper, so where is the bargain?

Chateau Maucaillou 2005, Moulis - was €39.99 now €29.99 - decent wine, decent vintage, but it is never €39.99! Again, no value to be had.

I could go on, but I think the point is made. I have complained to the Director of Consumer Affairs about this previously but to no avail. Legally, a product is supposed to be on sale for 30 days previous to the sale at the full price, before it can be used as a "Was...Now..." sale line. Did anybody see Haut Medoc de Giscours in Dunnes at €26.99? I would love to hear from you if you did.

Dunnes are the self-proclaimed biggest sellers of wine in the Irish market - is this the best they can come up with?! Watch out for more market share slippage to the deutschers!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Brian's Big Budget

Well, Brian Cowen has taken time out from singing at fleadh cheoils in Offaly to finally take charge of the economy and is bringing the budget forward to Oct 14th. Poor George Lee is going to wet himself if he gets any more excited. Watch out for duty increases on wine, as predicted by yours truly.

Duty is already obscenely high and is driving people north to Newry and south to Le Havre to buy their wine. An increase will make a difficult winter even trickier for wine importers and the hospitality trade alike.

Don't do it, Brian - use your imagination and do something interesting to stimulate the economy rather than harking back to the 1970s and the Minister of Hardship etc....

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Italian Promotion starts tomorrow

We are doing 10% off all Italian wine for the month of September and a series of Italian in-store tastings each weekend, travelling around Italy region by region. We are starting in Piedmont tomorrow featuring the wines of Boroli and Enzo Boglietti ( very tasty). Other tastings will be posted as they come up. Call in if you can.....

10% off all things Italian anyway, tasting or not!

Wine Map of Ireland

check out this useful map of good wine in Ireland ......

How come its not bubbly? The Pinot Grigio contradiction.

Here is a good question for your dinner party - what is the most widely planted grape variety in the world? Chardonnay? Merlot? Cabernet Sauvignon? The answer, those wine buffs among you will know, is Airen. Yes, the little known Spanish varietal is grown in vast quantities on the plains of La Mancha in central Spain. So how come we don't see lots of bottles of Airen on our shelves? Well, you can get some in Spain, but in general it is used as a blending wine. So what? Well, that is fine if it is blended in to wine in Spain and is all controlled by the regulatory authorities.

However, when you hear of tankers of Airen making the long journey over to northern Italy for blending in to Pinot Grigio, it makes you stop and think. It's been well known for years that Italy makes more "Pinot Grigio" than it grows, but I always presumed it was being plumped out with the less trendy Pinot Bianco or at worst some sad lonely bunches of Trebbiano, but Airen!?

It does perhaps explain how, with increasing demand and static production, the price is going down instead of up, as would normally be dictated by my rudimentary understanding of economics. So, once again, some unscrupulous producers will kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. Watch out for the imminent demise of Pinot Grigio as the trendy tipple of the day.

So, if you like Pinot Grigio and want to drink the real thing, shun that cheapo bottle for €5.99/€6.99/€7.99, even if it has been "reduced from twice the price (because it hasn't, it was never that price in the first place - do you think supermarkets don't make a profit on wine?). Seek out the Pinot Grigio made by a reputable family producer and sold by someone who knows what they are talking about.

So, the question remains - if they are putting Airen, how come its not bubbly? Don't get me started on prosecco.......

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Superquinn takeover?

I must say I find the news that Superquinn is up for sale, probably to be taken over by Sainsbury (bad enough), Asda / Walmart (the Dark Side) or Tesco (surely not!?!) is quite depressing, but predictable. I have often berated Superquinn for their bogus wine sales where the wines on sale are bought in specially for the sale and given inflated RRPs to make them look like good value, but overall I like their stores.

With every town now resembling Middle England and out of town shopping centres becoming the norm here just as the UK and US are realising that the centre of its actual towns are dying, is there anybody out there who wants to shop in Irish-owned shops? Dunnes Stores will be the only remaining Irish-owned supermarket left, and for how long?

On a more pertinent note, I liked John Wilson's article in last Saturday's Irish Times about supporting your local wine shop. I know, I have a certain vested interest in this, but the same is true of your local baker / butcher / candlestick maker. In Dalkey, we have a really good old-school baker, a butcher, the wonderful world of Select Stores and many other independent shops (including ourselves!). All the products or versions thereof are available in the nearest Tesco or whatever, probably a bit cheaper but also of lower quality with zero service levels. If the trend is a rush to the lowest common denominator, we are handing our cash and all the power to the big supermarkets; small shops will vanish and our towns and villages will become wastelands. Is this really what we want?

The story is repeated in every town and village in the country, so shop local, folks, whenever possible, support your local independent shops. Also, go for a pint now and again, the pubs need us as well!!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Gilles Guerrin Saint Veran

Tasting in the shop today is the new 2006 vintage of the Saint Veran Cuvee Prestige from Gilles Guerrin. The cuvee prestige is the one that is aged in barrique and this vintage carries on in good style from the excellent 05.

Quite exotic on the nose with tropical aromas blending in with vanilla and spice. Quite full-bodied, with ripe fruit, crisp acidity and oak all blending well and a long, mineral finish. Put this in a bottle named Meursault and many of you would fall for it. Quite a bargain at €17.99 if you like this style of wine.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

"Put the session back in recession"

A friend of mine who likes beer and words came out with that line the other night and there is a certain, probably unintended, wisdom therein.

The bad news is relentless. Unemployment up to 5.1% as of today. The weather has everyone suffering from SAD. People who are interested in share prices and house prices are sitting aghast as they watch money they thought was there disappear into thin air. It was an optical illusion, of course, it wasn't really there in the first place.

But there was a time when Irish people knew how to enjoy themselves. Have we all become so obsessed with money that we have forgotten how to have a good time? As far as I can see, the sky hasn't fallen in yet (it just looks like it is getting lower because of the clouds, but the monsoon season will be over soon). Are we turning into germans or Belgians or something? Where has our positivity gone?

I personally think it is something of a relief that the property bubble has burst, we can now focus our energies on something a bit more productive. The credit crunch will pass and we can settle into a medium term future of lower expectations, lower economic growth and less conspicuous consumption. Houses will end up back at more affordable levels for those who want to buy and sell.

So I propose we raise a glass to the bad old days, when we spent the money in our pocket rather than the money left on our credit card. By all means you can go and shop in Lidl, if you like that sort of thing (some people are taking a bit too much pride in it), but you can also go for lunch, meet your friends for a pint or a glass of wine. Go out, enjoy yourself, have a laugh. Put the session back in recession.

Roll on September, that's what I say, when the weather is only as bad as we expect, the schools are back, the Olympics will be over and we can put this "summer" behind us.

Rant over. Cheers!

Monday, August 18, 2008

St. Michael Eppan

What a weekend! The apocalyptic rain on Saturday meant that customers were in short supply for the Alto Adige tasting, so I only opened 2 bottles - the Sauvignon Lahn 2006 and the Pinot Nero Riserva 2003.

The sauvignon was crisp, fresh and dry with more of an emphasis on minerality than fruit. The fruit was there alright, present and correct, but the minerality won out so this is a wine for fans of Sancerre and Pouilly Fume as opposed to lovers of Marlborough.

The Pinot was quite burgundian in style, the few years of bottle age giving it a farmyardy character on the nose. It is lightish in body, but with lots of nice Pinot fruit, crisp acidity and a silky texture. I thought it was delicious, but some didn't like it, saying they thought it was too thin. Needs food as well, to show it at its best, would be great with duck or game.....

We were out on Friday for a few pints - is it just me or is Guinness very inconsistent in Dublin?
3 pints - one good, one ok and one very poor, not a great return, if you ask me. so we went home and drank some Midleton (thanks John) instead which was very good, of course.

Then we were out in a really good new Thai restaurant in town called Koh. Very cool interior and crowd, good food and decent wine list. Recommended.....

Thursday, August 14, 2008

COS Cerasuolo

So we relented and had a couple of glasses of wine last night and it was delicious! COS Cerasuolo is from our favourite producer in Sicily. Biodynamic now for over 20 years, Giusto is as non-interventionist as you are going to get and the Cerasuolo is a blend of Nero d'Avola and Frappato. A medium bodied, complex, very smooth wine with fascinating flavours, elegance and balance..really good. We asked our 3-year old (Callum) what he thought and he said it smelt like chocolate. He was dead right, among other things, there is a definite whiff of Valrhona.....

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tasting this weekend

This weekend in the shop we will open some wines from St. Michael Eppan. This producer in Alto Adige is one of the best white wine producers in Italy, awarded Winery of the Year in 2000. They are most famous in Italy for their top range of wines under the St. Valentin range, but the market in Ireland is limited for €30 oak-aged Pinot Grigio, so we tend to focus on wines lower down the pecking order.
I actually prefer the less expensive wines anyway, because they express perfectly all that is good about Alto Adige - clean, fresh fruit flavours, well made and offering decent value for money. So we will have a couple of whites open - maybe the Riesling Montiggl and the Lahn Sauvignon - both beautiful expressions of their varietal and origins. We will also open the Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir to the rest of you or Blauburgunder if you insist on speaking German) which is a very interesting red from this white-dominated region...

Call in if you can!

Still no booze

Day 3 on the great no drink crusade. Played football last night so didn't drink anything. Had to open a bottle of COS Cerusuolo for someone to taste though so that is open and so delicious. Probably having a glass with dinner tonight. Pam doesn't like the new me....

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The doctor says....

I had a check up recently and the much feared liver function test had a few undecipherable phrases in red ink that didn't look too good. Red ink, I know from bank statements, is not normally good news.

What does this mean, I ask the doc.
Well, he says, do you drink every day? (his practice is across from the shop)
Most days.
You should cut it down to 2 / 3 days a week and come back in and we will test you again after no drink for 5 days!
No problem, I said.

(What I was thinking was 2 days per week! 2 DAYS!!)

So I will cut down a bit, will probably be good for me. And there was me giving out about binge drinking!
Day 2 now.
Dinner last night very boring.

Burgundy tasting

We had the tasting on Friday evening, and ran it into Saturday, by which stage there was, sadly, very little left for glugging by yours truly on Saturday night. All four, I have to say were tasting really well at their respective levels, reports as follows:

Hamelin Chablis 2007 - new vintage just in and is typically textbook Chablis from Hamelin, if lacking a little concentration, by comparison with 2006. However, this is a lovely drink, medium bodied, red apples and citrus flavours, fresh, zingy acidity and a nice mineral finish. ver nice indeed.

Montagny 1er Cru 2007, Laurent Cognard - wasn't everyone's favourite (maybe by comaprison with the Chavy wines that followed), but I love this wine. It has wonderful purity, slight honey notes as he goes for ripeness, but with excellent balance - fresh acidity, ripe fruit and minerality all in abundance and a long, elegant finish. A wine to savour and one of my favourites of the moment.

Meursault Narvaux 2006, Philippe Chavy - wonderful, expressive nose, deepish colour. Full-bodied, ripe fruit, quite a bit of oak showing and spicy on the finish. Wonderful balance and length though. Could do with a couple of years in the cellar, but no hardship now either.

Puligny Montrachet 2006, Philippe Chavy - a suave effort from Philippe this year, very correct. Nervy acidity and ripe fruit are their in abundance and the the oak sitting quietly in the back, minding its own business (as it should). Drinking very nicely for one so young...

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Burgundy Tasting this Friday, 8th

We got in some 2006 wines from Philippe Chavy, namely the Puligny Montrachet and the Meursault Narvaux and we will be doing a tasting on them this weekend in the shop in Dalkey. Also on tasting is a cracking Montagny 1er Cru from a producer called Laurant Cognard. This is a wine that appeared in nearly every decent restaurant we were in when we were in Burgundy in May, so we tasted it a few times over there and took a punt on it. We are very pleased with it, but we will see what people think this weekend.

Pop in for a taste if you are around - it's free!

Buying unknown wine in France...

Sorry , been away in Scotland, where there is very little in the way of wine news....

Anyway, someone replied to my previous posting about buying dodgy stuff in France and it may have seemed hasty - let me clarify.

If you can buy a wine you know and like either from a shop or, better still, from a good producer and avoid the horrible taxes we pay here, fair enough. My problem is when people buy any old rubbish that they find in the supermarket in Le Havre or Roscoff or wherever just because it is cheap. If you factor in the cost of the trip (if it is a specific booze cruise), the corked wine that you can't return, the wince factor(can you put a cost on grimacing every time you taste it??), it's probably not as cheap as it seems. Cheap and good and available are three words that just don't live together. You can get any two of the three to fit, but never the three - try it!

Also, my experience is generally (I know there are exceptions) once a wine is above €20, it is often the same here as it is abroad. Zenato Ripassa is €21 here and €19 - €20 retail in Verona for example. Pesquera is normally more expensive in Spain than it is here.

Champagne is an exception, I know, but the only people who are not making any money on champagne are retailers - margins are pathetic on champagne. Of course, the fact that over 60% of champagne in Ireland is handled by one importer doesn't help...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

New Off-Licence hours

As and from tomorrow, off-licences have to close at the earlier hour of 10pm every night. This is part of the new legislation curbing the sales of booze in an attempt to get young people to stop binge drinking and beating each other up. It is hard to see how this is going to make any difference whatsoever, but I'm sure O'Brien's employees all over Dublin will be delighted. It is, however, another example of the government doing something, gowever meaningless, purely in order to be seen to do something to deal with a problem which has been incorrectly diagnosed. It is not the availability of alcohol that drives people to drink themselves out of control. It is a much more complex question involving culture (or lack thereof), money, self-respect, etc etc etc.

My worry, and I have said it before, is that there is a growing movement against drink in all its forms, which I fear our increasingly nanny state will satisfy by further inhibiting our ability to enjoy a pint or a glass of wine. We are heading for duty increases in the coming budget, make no mistake. No doubt, it will be couched in terms such as "for health reasons", "public order" and a load of other blather, but the real point is to squeeze yet more money out out hard pressed pockets.

As a wine importer, I already feel like a tax collector surrounded by bottles. The amount of duty and VAT we hand over every month is obscene! I don't want to hand over any more and meanwhile our customers are going to France to buy a load of crap.....

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

How to keep an open bottle fresh.

Keep it in the fridge.

We did a tasting last Sunday week for a customer who was trying out wines for a function or something and what can you do but drink the open bottles? So I whacked them in the fridge and drank the last one 6 days after being opened and it was fresh as a daisy. So, what were they?

In order:
Monday - Prosecco La Riva dei Frati, bubbles kept intact by their own champagne stopper, this always hits the spot. Fresh, fruity and delicious.
Wednesday - Degani Valpolicella 2007. Aldo's wines get better each year. The 07 has the typical cherry fruit, but with more guts and body than previous years.
Thursday - Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc 2007 - good, benchmark Marlborough Sauv Blanc.
Friday - Gruner Veltiner Terrassen 2007 Domaine Wachau - again, very fresh, a really good example of this popular Austrian varietal - good value too.
Saturday - Tussock Sauv Blanc 2006 - arguably a year older than it should be but all the better for it as it is showing some unexpected complexity. Drinking really well!

Monday, July 14, 2008

What we drank over the weekend....

There were 4 of us, ok? Over a weekend, ok? We don't get together very often. Mmm, the weather wasn't good. Also, the weather was good. We had lots of excuses for drinking well and drinking enough.

So, we had, in no particular order:

Boulard Champagne grand Cru - first wine of the weekend, pretty much guzzled back without much attention, but didn't offend!
Montagny 1er Cru 2006, Cognard - absolutely gorgeous, beautiful balance, rich and ripe, but lots of crisp, zesty acidity.
Hamelin Chablis 2007 - new vintage, just in, so we had to try it. Very good, up to Hamelin's usual high standards.
Bottiglia Particolare from Verazzano - really delicious concentrated, modern Sangiovese - the standout red of the weekend?
La Poja 2003, Allegrini - a bit of a disappointment, maybe we were expecting too much. Nice, but not €60 nice, I thought.
Chateau Mangot 2005, St. Emilion Grand Cru - really good, despite slightly late appearance and Siobhan's refusal to get the cheese out!
Banfi Brunello di Montalcino 2000 - surprisingly elegant, very nice.
Bussola Valpolicella TB 2004 - an old favourite and this vintage doesn't disappoint, bit of a bruiser, but impressive nonetheless.
Boroli Barbera 4 Fratelli 2004 - still no cheese, wine nice though.

Think that was it, thanks for the steaks, guys!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Herdade dos Grous tasting this Friday 11th

We just got in a consignment of wine from Herdade dos Grous - a wine recommended to me by a customer who dropped in a sample. We all liked it, I got a sample of the white from the estate, liked that as well and put in an order.

The estate is in Alentejo, just beside Maladinha and is managed by Luis Duarte, who also consults for Maladinha, amongst other top names in Portugal. It is at the forefront of the new, modern, well equipped wineries which put a modern slant on traditional Portuguese grape varieties and do a very good job at it. They are also embracing the movement for wine tourism that is all the rage in southern Portugal right now, offering a range of activities, a restaurant and rooms to rent at the estate as well as cellar visits and wine-tasting.

We will be doing a bit of wine-tasting ourselves on Friday evening in the shop on Friday evening. when we will be trying the range we have in from this exciting estate.

Tasting at the shop in Dalkey from 5-8pm, Friday July 11th.

Come along if you can....

Monday, July 7, 2008

Domaine Huet

I'm always amazed by the wines from Domaine Huet. One of the the original champions of biodynamic agriculture, this famous domaine makes the best Vouvray by some distance and their wines are among the best in the world, quite a feat when you are dealing with the sometimes less than friendy Chenin blanc grape. The wines have a purity and balance that makes them quite unique, my preference being the demi-sec which, in the words of winemaker Noel Pinguet, is the purest expression of Vouvray from Domaine Huet.

We had a tasting in the shop last Friday and we tried the following wines:

Vouvray Petillant 2000- crisp, fresh, light with a fine mousse and delicate texture and only on the finish did the trademark Huet complexity come through. As fresh as a daisy, no sign of any bottle age.

Le Haut Lieu Sec 2005 - muted nose, very crisp acidity and good zesty fruit on the palate. Very nice.

Le Haut Lieu 1995 - much more expressice, quite cheesy and earthy on the nose, lovely explosion of tertiary flavours on the palate and again, very crisp acidity. The first bottle, delicious when opened, oxidised within 3 hours. The second bottle is still delicious 3 days later.

Le Mont Demi Sec 2002 - this was the stand-out wine for me - really delicious balance of honey and lemons with the acidity making the residual sugar irrelevant. Beautiful balance, world-class wine.

These wines go on forever and are well worth their not insignificant price tags, as long as you can get your head around them. They are wines for connoisseurs who will give them the intellectual consideration they demand. They are Jean Paul Sartre, if you want the vinous equivalent of Marian Keyes (and most people do), we can gently point you in another direction. If you want a wine that will challenge you, enthrall you and maybe even annoy you slightly, then look at the wines from this fabulous producer.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The country is going to pieces

Jaysus, is there no end to the doom and gloom? Everyone is so goddamn twitchy! There is no end to the bad news in the papers, on the radio, on the TV - everywhere you look it's budget deficits, rising prices, falling consumer confidence, blah blah blah.

Look, the banks have taken the ball and gone home for their tea; the houses are reverting (quickly) to a level which makes some sort of sense and the builders have stopped building and are counting their cash instead. However, the country is in a much better place than it was 20 years ago and we will stumble through this. The government will not bail us out. Biffo's straight talking myth is crumbling by the day, I'm almost missing Bertie's amusing rambling and it's only been 2 months. The government will fall within 12 months and the opposition is as weak as ever.

There is only one solution. Keep calm, watch the pennies, insist on value, smile from time to time and of course, keep drinking wine!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Cornish Point Pinot Noir by Felton Road

Pam and myself tried a bottle of the 2006 Cornish Point Pinot from Felton Road. This spectacularly beautiful vineyard has been something of a Pinot experimentation field for the last 10 years or so, where Nigel and his team were trying out different clones, rootstocks etc of Pinot ir order to see what works best in this region. It has up until now been bottled off seperately and sold slightly cheaper than Felton Road. It has always been a bit more forward, a bit less complex, a fruitier style than the Felton Road. 2006 is no different, but it is delicious all the same - medium bodied, with loads of raspberry and cherry fruit aith chocolate and spice mingling in the background. One of those bottles that is not big enough. I think Pam drank it all....

Anyway, from the brilliant 2007 vintage onwards, the best of Cornish Point will be bottled as a Felton Road Single Vineyard Cornish Point ( a sort of Premier Cru). What doesn't make it into the premier cru will be blended into Felton Road Pinot Noir. So, Cornish Point will, along with Calvert and (I think ) Elms, will become a premier cru, Felton Road will be equivalent to the village level in Burgundy which means the Block 3 and Block 5 will become the grands crus - yikes!!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Taste of Dublin

Ok, so I have finally recovered from A Taste of Dublin last weekend. I didn't realise being nice for 4 days was going to take so much out of me! Who would have known?

Positive points first:
The setting was great - Iveagh Gardens is a nice spot and it looked really well.
The weather held - at least until Sunday evening.
The atmosphere was great - everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and there wasn't too much messing.
There was a decent number of people.
It was well organised.

Negative points:
My trolley got nicked - boy was I pissed off that one of my fellow exhibitors would kick me in the goolies like that on Monday morning when I needed it most. The trolley, that is, not the kick in the goolies.
We got some bottles of prosecco nicked on Friday night - primarily because we had no curtain for the first 2 days. We got one on Saturday after kicking up a big fuss.
It was expensive - both for us as exhibitors and for consumers paying into the event, the big winners in all this seem to be the organisers. OK, they have to make a profit, but if everyone feels they are getting ripped off ( there were rumblings from many corners), then it is not going to succeed long term.
For us, as a small wine importer, I feel letting O'Briens do their massive World of Wine thing sort of ruins it for the rest of us. So they can afford to pay 100K for a huge stand, great, but is it not supposed to be about interesting stuff, rather than mass market stuff?
It was hard work, but I don't mind that if there is a return. At this stage, I'm not sure there was.

The jury is definitely out!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Poliziano Dinner June 11th

We had Tiziana Mazzetti, Export Manager with Poliziano over for the day yesterday and we made the most of the visit by hosting a Wine Club dinner in Dali's, Blackrock. We tasted the full range:

Ambrae 2007 - Poliziano's only white has now settled on a blend of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Sauvignon Blanc. It is designed to be a light, easy-drinking white, but is a bit more serious than it makes itself out to be. It is quite full-bodied, ripe appley fruit and nice acidity. 14.5% alcohol means it is one for food, not for glugging in the garden.

Morellino di Scansano 2007 - this is from the Maremma (south Tuscany, on the coast) and the fruit is brighter, texture is silkier - dare I say it, a more feminine style? (pretend I'm Italian and let me away with it, sisters!). Good to drink on its own, good by the glass in a restaurant.

Poliziano Rosso 2005 - the Rosso, by contrast is a bit more tannic, a bit more rustic. It needs food, but is very pleasant and a versatile all-rounder. For roast potatoes, not couch potatoes.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2005 - much more polished, ripe tannins and fresh dark cherry fruit dominate, good length and very nicely balanced. Excellent wine.

Asinone 2004 - the serious stuff - this is from an excellent vintage and already delicious. Concentrated, but never heavy, this is wonderful wine. Balance, purity, elegance - it has it all.

Le Stanze 2005 - Poliziano's super tuscan - 70% Cabernet, 30% Merlot. This, too, is very polished wine; very closed still, very full-bodied. One for the long haul. (We tried the 2000 earlier in the day and it was amazing.

They really have very consistent quality right throughout the range and the price / quality ratio is very fair, in my view. Dali's did a great job, the food was great and I think everyone enjoyed the night.

Asinone is the stuff, though.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

More burgundy

Jean Marc Millot grows in confidence every year as his wines become more widely known and sought after. I think he sells out pretty much all his wines every year now, we certainly can't get enough of them. The Cotes de Nuits Villages 06 was the high standard we have come to expect, raspberries and cream and silky texture. The quality goes up accordingly through the range up to the Echezeaux and Grand Echezeaux and Clos de Vougeot.

Mugneret Gibourg are always a highlight and a joy to taste. Taste their basic (€30!) Bourgogne and you know immediately you are in a domaine which is a notch above the ordinary. it is easy to get seduced by the charming sisters, the atmospheric huge cellars and the vineyards right outside the door, but it is the wines which remain in the memory - Bourgogne, Vosne Romanee, Nuits 1er Cru Les Chaignots, Clos Vougeot - the wines have beautiful balance and finesse right through the range, they are wines that are well worth their admittedly high price tags.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Produttori del Barbaresco tasting - 24/5/08

At a recent tasting presented by Aldo Vacca, Director of Produttori del Barbaresco based in the village of Barbaresco, Piedmont, Northern Italy, Aldo made some very interesting points regarding climate change/global warming.

As a child in the 1960's and early 1970's Aldo remembers his grandfather going to the winery under cover of dark to chaptalise the wines - this was the illegal practice of adding sugar to boost the final alcoholic strength of a wine. Potential alcohol would have always been 12-12.5% Vol. but since 1997 - "the first of the warm vintages", there is no problem achieving 13-14% Vol in the wines from Barberesco. Even in the poor vintage of 2002 the grapes produced a wine with 13% Vol.

The Produttori grow only Nebbiolo - the name of the grape is derived from the Italian word "nebbia" meaning "fog". In the past this grape was always picked during the November fogs - nowadays the grape is picked much earlier on in September, long before the autumn fogs descend on the vineyards.

"Global warming has been making September a summer month - before, you put an extra blanket on your bed in September - now it is October before you need that extra blanket."

Two important changes have taken place due to climate change -

Up to five years ago the most important factor in grape quality in this region was sugar content. With climate change other factors are now looked at - the grapes are measured for colour, tone and phenolic ripeness.

Production of single vineyard Barbaresco usually took place only in the better vintages - now it is happening almost every year.

I asked Aldo what he likes to eat when he enjoys a bottle of his Barbaresco - "I drink with steak, veal, mushroom risotto, pheasant and rabbit. The wine also matches fresh egg pasta extremely well."

A wonderful tasting - great wines from Nebbiolo Langhe DOC 2006 to a single Cru Barbaresco Riserva "Moccagatta" 1997. My own favourite was Barbaresco Riserva "Rio Sordo" 2001. I will have the chance to try the 1999 of this wine tomorrow - a wine I bought from Aldo while visiting the Produttori del Barbaresco two years ago.


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Burgundy cont'd

We did a good mix of existing growers and new exciting discoveries this year - I will deal first with our old friends....

Philippe Chavy - Philippe was his usual enthusiastic self and, I have to say, i like his wines more and more each year. He has excellent holdings in both Puligny Montrachet and Meursault and all his wines reflect their origins perfectly, are really well balanced and are marked out by a freshness, a nervosité that seems to be the Chavy trademark. As usual, we preferred the Meursault Narvaux and the Puligny Corvees des Vignes cuvees, but we will take whatever is available, they were all excellent.

Domaine Darviot Perrin - Didier was laid up in bed with some eye complaint, so his ever charming wife brought us through the amazing selection of wines from this immaculate domaine in Monthelie. They have really good, mature vineyard holding in Chassagne and Meursault as well and, unusually for the Cotes de Beaune, produce a large range of red wines as well as their sought-after whites. We tasted the 2006s and the quality was very high from the basic bourgognes in red and white through the Chassagne Montrachet Bergerie, Meursault Tessons, the various premier crus and of course , the red Chassagne 1er cru Les Bondues. (We later had the 2000 of this wine and it was excellent.)

Friday, May 30, 2008

Burgundy, May 2008

Just back from 3 days of pretty intensive tasting in Burgundy where we did a comprehensive sweep of growers in the Cote de Nuits, Cote de Beaune, Cote Chalonaise and the Macon, tasting some spectacular wines along the way. I will go through the growers and my thoughts over the coming days, but I just want to give some initial overall impressions.

The 2006 vintage is really good for both reds and whites. Considering that it is somewhat in the shadow of the amazing 2005 vintage, the quality is very good indeed. The wines lack the intensity and concentration of 2005, but they have lovely clean, fresh fruit flavours and nice balance. They are not for the long haul, but will make for nice drinking in the medium term.

We tasted some 2007s from barrel as well (many hadn't yet finished their malolactic fermentation and thus weren't really tasteable) and the quality likewise seems good from the growers we visited who all expressed relief that the vintage wasn't a disaster as they feared in August last year after 2 months of rain! September stepped in to save the vintage and, after some severe sorting of the grapes - many were down 30% volume on normal - some good wines have been made. Again, these are for drinking and not for keeping, but that is, in itself, no harm.

Beaune was as pleasant as ever, except for the rather rainy conditions and as usual, we drank too much and ate too much and slept too little! More details will follow...

Friday, May 23, 2008

Bordeaux 2005

We got some of our 2005s in during the week, so we cracked open a few bottles to see what they were like:

Chateau Beaumont 2005, Haut Medoc - decent effort, not bad. but you would have to wonder could you not do better at €25?

Chateau Haut Bages Liberal, Pauillac - this is more like it - classic Bordeaux, but very open. Drinking really nicely, what is the point of keeping it for years, just drink it! €40

Chateau Mangot, Saint emilion Grand Cru - very nice, well structured, lots of fruit but lots of tannin, better value at €25

Chateau Faugeres, Saint Emilion Grand Cru - this was the stand out wine of the tasting, accessible now because the tannins are so ripe and there is lovely fruit, but it has the stuffing to last quite a while if that is your thing. Excellent stuff and possibly too cheap at €40.

Off to Burgundy next week.....

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Rose and its short but beautiful life

We tried a 2005 rose the other day and it was dead, dead, dead. Then we tried the same wine, but the 2006 vintage and it was delicious. So drink them young as you can, regardless of where they are from.

Oh yes, the 2007 Reverdy Sancerre is delicious.....

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Domaine Saladin

Just new in to the shop is a range of wines from Domaine Saladin. This is an organically farmed domaine in the Ardeche producing a range of wines under the Cotes du Rhone appellation. It is run by 2 charming sisters who have taken over the operation from their father (Loi) and uncle (Paul). Their brother runs a restaurant on-site. The wines are all marked by a freshness, elegance and purity that really puts them head and shoulders above the usual stuff from this part of the world. Well worth a try.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Family of 12 - more

The other wineries I found interesting at the Family of 12 tasting were Kumeu River who have a fantastic range of Chardonnays at various levels of quality and intensity, but I thought they were all good at their respective levels. They also had a Pinot Noir, but I wasn't mad about it, thought it was a bit green.

Millton intrigued me as I was sure I had seen their wines before somewhere, but couldn't place them and they are looking for representation in Ireland. It was later that I realised they had in the past been distributed by an organic wine distributor who we used to have some dealings with. Anyway, the wines were very nice, an especially nice Chenin blanc (apparently house white in Gordon Ramsay in London), a nice unaoked Chardonnay and a viognier which was a bit flowery for me. Their Pinot was good too.

Fromm had the most intriguing wines of all there. There was a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir from Clayvin Vineyard that were more mineral than anything I have ever tasted from NZ before, very intense, tightly coiled wines, much more European in style than New Zealand. Very interesting wines - also as yet unavailable in Ireland and quite a hard sell, I would think.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Family of 12 tasting May 15th

The Family of 12 is a grouping of 12 New Zealand wineries who occasionally work together on promotion and other things, see for further information. They were in Dublin yesterday, showing their wares for a really good tasting.

Felton Road is one of the 12, so I went in to help Nigel Greening, the owner of Felton Road, pour the wine and shoot the breeze for a couple of hours. Nigel is an extremly interesting and entertaining guy and it is always fascinating to hear him talk abour wine, winemaking, organics, biodynamics, global warming and anything else that might come up. The wines were, as always, fantastic, ew had four on show:

2007 Riesling - with 50g of residual sugar and 10 degrees of alcohol, this off-dry Riesling was the star of our table and possibly of the whole tasting. Harmonious, fresh and beautifully balanced with lovely fresh citrus flavours, soft acidity and amazing length - really excellent.

2006 Chardonnay - showing really well, again nicely balanced with fruit, acidity and oak. Nigel reckons you should either drink this now if you like your chardonnay young and zesty or stick it away for 4/5 years to let it develop. (We had the 02 recently and it was excellent).

2006 Calvert Pinot Noir - the first vintage of this single vineyard Pinot was tight and quite tannic when I last tasted it before Christmas, but yesterday it was showing really well - very open with beautiful pure raspberry fruit, lightish in body but with excellent concentration and length.

2006 Pinot Noir - much meatier than the Calvert, but with amazing purity, complexity and length - more brambly in character, silky tannins and perfect balance.

Nigel is really excited about his 2007s (see Riesling above) - he reckons his 2007 Pinot is by far the best Pinot they have ever made; look forward to trying them when they land in a couple of weeks time.

There were other interesting wines there as well, some not available in Ireland - I will report on them in my next posting.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Waterslides report

Back from Tuscany, and happy to report the waterslides were really of a very high standard. That's that overwith and I'm not going to bore you with stories of how good value the food was blah blah blah.

So, what else to report? Well, we only did two winery visits, one to Fattoria di Basciano in Rufina. Paola and Annarita were as charming as ever and booked us into a restaurant for lunch with which we had their Rosado. It would have to be a bad Rose indeed to taste bad on a summer's day in Tuscany sitting in a restaurant surrounded by vines and very pleasant it was. We thought that was it, until larger glasses emerged and the Chianti Rufina 2006 came out. This was great until even bigger glasses came out and the Riserva 2005 was poured. I had to take it easy as I was driving, so I just had a little of each - I still thing the basic Rufina is hard to beat. The Riserva was good too, but the oak was still overpowering things slightly, I'm sure it will develop nicely though. Meanwhile, Pam went on to get roaring drunk as usual (only joking, she was the picture of sobriety as always).

More tomorrow...

Friday, May 9, 2008

Wine Adventures in Portugal - April 2008

Just back from a wine trip to Portugal - far away from the Algarve, visiting wineries in the Douro Valley, Dao and Alentejo. Not much has been written on Portuguese wine but the best book to recommend is the newly published "The Wine and Food Lover's Guide to Portugal" by Charles Metcalfe and Kathryn McWhirter.
The Douro Valley is spectacular (once the rain stopped!). The first visit was to Quinta de la Rosa on the outskirts of Pinhao - in 2000 this estate's production was approximately 80% Port and 20% D.O.C. wine. Now their D.O.C. wines account for 80% of total production. Their winemaker is the dynamic young Jorge Moreira who was in the process of bottling their reserva wines but he made time to meet us and talk us through an amazing tasting - 2005 Cerejinha made from mainly Touriga Nacional, Quinta de la Rosa Reserva 2005, the 2006 which is being bottled at the moment, and a wine called "Poeira" which Jorge makes himself, separate from Quinta de la Rosa.
A lunch followed in the restaurant overlooking the river, finishing with chocolate brownie cake with cream and a glass of the 1997 Colheita - "Clear, medium brick colour with a complex bouquet of prunes, raisins, cinnamon, spice. Full rich raisoney palate, spicy, syrup of figs (for those who remember) and a finish that still lingers in my mind ... delicious.
But we are not on this trip to investigate port - to quote Jorge Moreira "I spend 90% of my time thinking about wine and 10% thinking about Port". This sums up how things are changing in the Douro.
Further adventures on a boat journey down the Douro to Quinta das Tecedeiras to follow shortly - and I will post photographs (mainly of me with the young dynamic winemakers - both male and female!) for those who may be interested ....

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Off to Tuscany

Off to Tuscany in the morning, taxi booked for 5am. Before you think I'm off on some glamorous wine-tasting trip, let me clarify it is a holiday with family in tow, so I suspect it will be about 5% wine tasting and 95% water slides. Still, I don't expect any sympathy.....

The point is, there may or may not be wifi where we are going, so there may or may not be updates from bella Italia.

In my absence, Carol might update us on her wonderful trip to portugal last week (now that was a booze cruise...). Or she might not.

Worst case scenario, i'll be back May 12th.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Match of the Day

Watching Match of the Day the other night and finishing a bottle of Felton Road Chardonnay 2002, which had been delicious with roast chicken earlier on and I got a craving for a bit of cheese. Now, foodies and wine anoraks alike have been extolling the virtues of white wine and cheese for many years now, but I hadn't been paying much attention, so I decided on the only sensible course of action in such a situation - just eat whatever is in the fridge.

In this case, it was some slightly out-of-date (ie extra mature) Cooleeney. What a match! Went down really well together and enhanced my football viewing no end. Pam came down then looking for her glass which she had left in the fridge earlier, but it had unfortunately evaporated.

Some bottles are just not big enough....

Friday, April 25, 2008

Bussola is back!

The story goes that the famous Amarone producer Quintarelli was asked a few years ago who was the next big thing in Valpolicella and he replied "Tomasso Bussola". Bussola's wines are rightly famous in Italy and are superb examples of the best you can get from Valpolicella and Amarone. the Gambero Rosso also described him as "the greatest Recioto producer of them all". Recioto della Valpolicella, for those of you who are unfamiliar with this little-known joy, is a sweet version of Amarone. A glass of Recioto with some dark chocolate and you are on a fast-track to heaven!

We now have 5 Amarones in the shop, which is probably about 3 more than we actually need, but they are all good in their own way. Bussola Amarone BG made number 5 this week, after a prolonged absence. Amarone is a very sexy style of wine, but I don't think it goes well with food - I agree with the Italians that it is a "vino de meditazione" to be drunk after dinner, preferably with a hunk of cheese (parmesan goes well).

If you like Amarone, but find it too strong and heavy with dinner, what do you drink? Ripasso, of course. This is a style of wine, halfway between Valpolicella and Amarone, which has many of the characteristics of Amarone, but isn't as heavy or as alcoholic (Bussola's 2004 Amarone is 16.5%). Ripasso is made by adding Valpolicella to the Amarone barrels after the Amarone has been racked off; the wine undergoes a second fermentation in barrel, adding a degree or so of alcohol, more body, more fruit, more everything, basically. The result is a supercharged Valpolicella or a lighter Amarone, depending on how you look at it. However you look at it, the results can be very attractive. The best version, in my humble opinion, is Bussola Valpolicella Superiore TB. We had it in Hartley's last night and it was stonking - rich, full-bodied velvetty texture and loads of dark cherry fruit and chocolate and all sorts going's expensive of course, but you're worth it!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Muddy Water new arrivals

Just in is the new vintage Dry Riesling from Muddy Water, which has been getting many plaudits from press all over the world, such as this from Foodservice magazine April 2008:

"This is so pure. A feather-light riesling showing supreme elegance and delicacy, yet with superb concentration and intensity"

As usual, I don't have much of it! Also got in some Hare's Breath Pinot Noir, also from Muddy Water. Leaving aside the dodgy name, this single vineyard wine has proven to be very popular since its launch. It is quite savoury, spicy and quite a bit of oak (35% new French oak) - a bit unusual, a bit moe like a Californian Pinot that NZ, but delicious nonetheless.

Looks like my prediction was correct - I'm sure closing off-licences at 10 PM or whenever will be hugely successful in changing the binge-drinking culture of the small percentage of the population who make fools of themselves every weekend.

I close at 8pm and I can still drink too much. Of course, I don't. Not often, anyway.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

More anti-drink hysteria...

The report from the HSE about the dangers of the demon drink is fairly damning stuff and there seems no doubt that a mixture of (probably) drugs and alcohol is making the streets a more threatening place and clogging up the A&E departments. However, am I alone in thinking that it's WHAT we drink and HOW we drink that is the problem. I mean, you never see people starting a fight on the street after a couple of glasses of Gevrey Chambertin with their dinner, do you? A pint of plain on the way home from work doesn't necessarily lead you to harass grannies on the Luas, does it?

Drink is much more prevalent and much cheaper in France, Spain, Italy and most other civilised countries and they don't have the same public order problems. People need to be educated about respect - for alcohol, for other people but mainly for themselves.

Of course the government will react by restricting availability, opening hours blah blah blah, all useless, pointless measures. The increasing bad press for drink will, of course, justify higher duties in the next budget - they are just softening us up for it.....

Monday, April 21, 2008

On the Grapevine Maiden blog...

Well, I've been toying with the idea of a blog for a while now and fretting about not having anything to say or having too much to say or trying to stick to wine matters without veering off into rants about the many things that might annoy me but is of no interest whatsoever to anyone else!

We had a great tasting in the shop on Friday night - the line-up was:

Gaja Sito Moresco 2005

Gaja Barbaresco 2003

Pio Cesare Barbaresco 2004

Pio Cesare Barolo 2003

Boroli Barolo 2000

Boglietti Barolo "Brunate" 2003

Most people agreed that the Gaja Barbaresco was beautiful, seamless wine - elegant, balanced and delicious. Of course, at €160 per bottle, this was to be expected. The Sito Moresco, a blend of Nebbiolo, Cabernet and Merlot seemed a tad clumsy and not quite hanging together. The Pio Cesare wines were, as expected, very good but hard to drink by comparison. The Boroli Barolo was the favourite wine on the night, helped by the fact that Boroli's typical accessible style was helped by an extra 3 years in bottle. Boglietti's wine was delicious, I thought, in a very modern style, but an excellent Barolo. We finished the Gaja Barbaresco, Boroli and Boglietti with dinner on Friday night and went back to The 2 Pios and the Sito Moresco on Sunday. All 3 had improved dramatically, the Sito was much more integrated and the Pio Barbaresco elegant and delicious. The Pio Barolo was still a bit tough - had to get some smelly cheese to go with it.