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...