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!!