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.