Friday, December 11, 2009

Reduction in excise rates on alcohol

Regular readers, if they exist, will know that I am no great fan of the current administration, so I feel duty-bound to give credit where it is due and welcome the reduction in duty on alcohol last Wednesday. From wine's perspective, it is a reversal of last year's disastrous increase, so it is back to square one. For beer and spirits, the change is more substantial.

Will it make any difference?

The amounts involved are not huge, but it is a step in the right direction and it might make people think twice, or at least look at the prices in the south before the 60 mile, 4 hour drive to Newry. From that point of view, it is a good thing.

We have reduced all our prices in the shop, even though all the stock we have (and it is a lot) was bought pre-budget at the higher excise rates. Nevertheless, it is important to be seen to pass on the change and we feel it is worthwhile to reduce prices now rather than later.

In general, I feel it is going to be a busy Christmas in the shop, despite the collapse in corporate business. 2009 has been pretty tough for everyone and I get the feeling that those left standing might feel like treating themselves a little. There's nothing like blind optimism to get you through the worst recession in living memory!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

I wish I was a better note taker

I was at an amazing tasting and dinner last night, and I fear my notes don't really do justice to the wines tasted and eventually drunk. It was a World Class Pinot Noir tasting, 11 wines in all tasted blinded from decanters in the lovely surroundings of Ely CHQ, who looked after us exceptionally well as always.

The notes below are my raw notes from the blind tasting, but with the names of the wines added in.
1. Mayer-Nakel Neuenahrer Sonnenberg 1 2004
Ripe fruit on the nose, sweet, ripe raspberries etc, med body, decent length, alc sticking out slightly

2. Domaine Armand Rousseau Chambertin Grand Cru 2002
More restrained on nose, definitely burgundy, earthy, spicy, leathery, good fruit amazing length, v complex

3. Rochioli West Block Russian River 1994
Farmyardy, savoury nose, slightly cloudy. Savoury, meaty, complex but fruit a bit muted. Seems mature, just about hanging together. Good finish.

4. Bergstrom Shea Vineyard 2006, Oregon
Very fruity style, savoury on finish, quite spicy, alcohol burn. Grippy tannins, seems young.

5. Ten Minutes by Tractor McCutcheon Vineyard, Mornington Peninsula
Muted nose, slight eucalyptus whiff. Too much oak, grippy as well, not showing well.

6. Felton Road Central Otago 2004
lovely lifted nose of raspberries and dark fruit, rich full bodied style, very fruit driven but complex and delicious. prob NW

7. Ata Rangi Martinborough 2007
Aromatic, delicious nose. Very fruit driven, rich luscious a bit more in-yer-face. V good, but young

8. Cono Sur Osio 2007 Casablanca, Chile
Muted nose, slightly green on palate, grippy tannins. needs time

9. Hamilton Russell, Hermanus 2006
savoury, smoky, meaty nose. Smoky bacon, meaty flavours, green, unpleasant, tannic over-extracted.

10. Chamonix, Franschoek 2007
Fruit and spice, complex nose. Very fruity style, oaky and alcoholic. Def NW - too much oak, needs time to get together.

11. Domaine de Montille Pommard 1er Cru Les Pezerolles 2005
muted nose, a bit tight and tannic, lots of fruit though, v good long life ahead.

After the tasting, we went through them and, while everyone had their favourites, their was a suprising amount of agreement about which ones were showing best.

Thankfully, my 2 declared favourites were wines no. 2 and 6. I can take some comfort from being able to recognise that a grand cru from a top grower in a fantastic vintage (Rousseau's Chambertin 02) is a wine I should like. It was also something of a relief that I liked the Felton Road, given that we are agents for this wine in Ireland and this particular wine was Red Wine of the Year in 2005. I wasn't able to say which one it was, but at least I liked it!

All in all, a fantatstic tasting.

We then had dinner and some more amazing wines followed - I didn't take notes as we were eating and I was getting enough slagging just for jotting down the names.

Wines, not necessarily in this order were as follows:

Pieropan La Rocca 2007 - excellent
Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru 2006, Mugnier - pure, v good
Vosne Romanee 1er Cru Les Malconsorts 2005, de Montille - silky and sexy, surprisingly open
Felton Road Block 3 2004 - blousier version of earlier wine, spoilt by being slightly fizzy!
Chambertin Clos de Beze 1996, Rousseau - amazing -with typical 96 acidity, but fantastic
Volnay 1er Cru "en Caillerets" 2006, Pousse d'Or - attractive, struggled after Clos de Beze
- then some syrah, guess who insisted...
St Joseph Cuvee Papy 2006, Montez - pure, silky, very nice drink
L'Ame Soeur 2006, Ogier - first bottle was off, second better, but still volatile after some time in the glass.
Lastly a shiraz by Duval, can't remember which one.
Taking out an Oz shiraz at the end of the night is like putting Tom Waits on at a party - it's a sign that the night is over. But what a night!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Papillon liquidation sale in Stillorgan

A restaurateur friend sent me the Papillon liquidation list by e-mail yesterday and, apparently there were big crowds eager to get a bargain at the old (also closed down) Slainte premises in Stillorgan.

It is quite a clever move by the liquidators because these wines have already been offered to the trade, they are the leftovers from 2 rounds of bidding of the extensive Papillon stock. They have priced the wines at (very) full retail prices and then discounted them by 30-40%. So, is this a bargain? No, it is not, and for the following reasons:

1. The wines are not up to much anyway - I know the Papillon list and there was a lot of dross, partly the reason why it didn't sell in the first place. Anything half decent has already been sold by the liquidators into the trade.

2. The wines are too old - especially for the whites, 2004 Chardonnay or 2005 Sauv Blanc from South Africa is likely to be way past its best and quite possibly undrinkable. If many of the whites on the list were offered to me for free, I wouldn't take them. The reds might be hanging in there, but probably past their best as well.

3. The wines are too dear. By marking them up to the full retail prices and discounting them back down again, the wines are being offered at not far off the wholesale prices. So you have people queuing up to pay cash for wines at the same prices that Papillon couldn't sell them to the wine trade at a few years ago.

It's a big swizz, if you ask me, but there are no shortage of people who will pay any price to get what they think is a bargain.

If you get a dodgy looking bottle of 6 year old South African Chenin Blanc over Christmas, make sure you open it for the person who brought it!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Rully from Vincent Daux

A couple of new wines in last week, from a producer we first me last year, but visited again earlier in 2009. Rully (pronounced as it is spelt) is an appellation on the southern side of Burgundy, near Mercurey and between the Cote d'Or and the Maconnais. It is an area that offers good value, something we have been sniffing out even more than usual the last couple of years.

The Rully Blanc " Les Maizieres" is a single vineyard 100% Chardonnay, part of which gets a little time in old oak, just to round it out, not to impart oak flavour. Medium bodied, very nice concentration of appley fruit with a citrus streak, think Chablis, but with a bit of meat on its bones.

The Rully Rouge "Brange", again single-vineyard 100% Pinot Noir. Ripe and juicy, light in body but with very nice concentration of strawberry and raspberry fruit. Very quaffable, think of Fleurie, but with proper fruit flavours instead of bubblegum.

Both are €20.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Dastardly French

Bit of grumbling going on about France this morning following Henry's blatant handball last night turfing us out of the World Cup.

That's why I will wait until tomorrow to tell you about our new Burgundies just arrived.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Interview with Giusto from COS

For an interview with the charming Giusto from COS winery, explaining the magic behind Cerasuolo di Vittoria, click Fast forward to 17.30 into the programme to see the COS bit.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Locks finally closed

Another restaurant has gone into liquidation, this time Locks Restaurant in Portobello. Locks was an istitution back in the days when you could go on a long boozy lunch, ring the secretary that you were out for the afternoon and then drive home, half drunk. Similar behaviour nowadays and you would find yourself arrested for drunk driving and then fired the next day.

Kelvin Rynhardt and his wife Teresa took it a little over two years ago, spent way too much doing the place up and then tried to sell over-priced food to a non-existent market, just as the economy ent into meltdown. Two years on and we went to a creditors meeting yesterday, to be told by the examiner taht the company has gone into liquidation.

There is the usual, predictable, sad trail of destruction in its wake. Revenue, suppliers, the landlord, even the staff are owed large amounts of money. Kelvin and Teresa have lost a lot of money as well, but there are a lot of questions that will remain unanswered - the main one being: where did all the money go? There was a lot of wine sold, presumably food to go with it, but nobody was getting paid...strange?

For our own part, our bad debt represented about two months sales. If you stop supplying completely, you will never get paid, so we went on COD and tried to get the old debt down, but didn't get it down quickly enough. Lesson learned.

In the end, it is better to close it down as it was a business going nowhere.

Move on.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Shopping in the North

A business owner I know needs to buy spirits. Not for himself, for his business. He tells me he is thinking of getting them in the North to save money. It's technically illegal, but who is going to know? I try to persuade him to keep his business this side of the border.

Hang on a second, I said, you can get bottles of vodka on promotion now for €18.99 - somebody somewhere always has them on sale at or below cost to try and keep people shopping in the Republic. Surely the savings can't be that much?

So we looked at it, a bottle of Smirnoff in Sainsbury's for £12.50 stg. Today's exchange rate is about 90p which makes it €13.89, call it €14.50 to allow for being ripped off by the bank on the exchange rate. Take the VAT off the €19 and the cost comes down to €15.64. Cost in the travel, food etc and you can add €50 to the trip. That's not costing in the waste of time - is time still money? Not sure any more. Anyway, it suddenly means you have to buy a lot of spirits to make it worth your while. Will they have all you need for a business in Sainsbury's or will you have to drive and queue up to get into a different supermarket?

Is it worth the hassle? Probably not in this instance because he can claim back the VAT on his purchases in the Republic.

However, for a punter who can't claim back the VAT, the price differences are compelling, particularly on booze, including wine. The fact that the wine selection available in the North's supermarkets is poor has little relevance, given that the majority of people don't really care as long as it is alcoholic and cheap.

Without some action on duty and VAT, or without a massive weakening of the euro, I'm afraid the exodus North will continue for some time to come.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Wine Fair

Getting ready for our wine fair next Thursday, 12th, in Fitzpatricks Killiney Castle Hotel. WE will have over 100 wines open for tasting; we are offering 20% discount for orders taken on the night, so it's a great opportunity to try and then buy your wine for Christmas at a great price.
Sheridan's cheese will have a stand at the fair as well and we will have great ideas for wine and food gift ideas.

What's in it for us? Weel, it means that we can get a chunk of good customers sorted early and helps our planning for the busy Christmas period. It's also a chance to try all the wines ourselves and it's usually good craic!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bank Holiday wines

We had a very mellow weekend, some friends up from Clare and a total of 10 people in the house, 6 of them little ones. Children, I mean. I was working till 8 on Saturday, and it was relatively quiet (normal for us on a bank holiday, but still annoying) so I was bursting for a drink when I got home. Luckily, I had the foresight to put a bottle of Bollinger in the fridge before I had left that morning. It was as good as ever, still one of my favourite champagne grand marques. The bottle of St. Michael Eppan Riesling Montiggl 2008 that I had also put in the fridge was then opened to go with Pam's Thai Curry. Both, were excellent, the Riesling was crisp, fresh, bone dry and deliciously pure. I had the Degani Valpolicella 2008 on tasting in the shop on Saturday and fancied a glass, so that was next. Typical fresh cherry fruit from Aldo in this vintage, but a lovely smokiness in the background that adds depth and complexity. Very nice wine. We then moved up a few gears and opened a bottle of Zenato Amarone Riserva 1995 that I had for a long time and was slightly worried about as I don't think Amarone ages that well. The nose on this wine was gorgeous, black and deep and intense. The palate was nice, but didn't live up to the promise of the nose. Glad we drank it, it's on the wane...

Slightly tired the next day, we needed something peppy to get us started which we did in the shape of St. Michael Eppan Pinot Grigio 2008. This is proper wine, unlike many which share its grape variety, intense fruit concentration with proper acidty and nice texture and length. With dinner, a massive slab of roast beef, we had a bottle of Condado da Haza 2006, a little grippy on opening so I decanted it and it was glorious with the beef. I felt like trying something a little older so we had a bottle of John's Blend Shiraz 1999. I didn't particularly like this wine, although I have enjoyed it previously. Maybe too old, the fruit was falling apart and it just felt a bit disjointed. To finish us off, we had a glass of Niepoort Colheita 1998, which was very pleasant, as you might imagine.

Then yesterday was the Dublin City Marathon which was completely ignored by all of us.

Body needs a break now for a couple of days, bit of exercise maybe.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Philippe Chavy and Jean Marc Millot

We had Philippe Chavy from Puligny Montrachet and Jean Marc Millot from Vosne Romanee over last week for a quick visit. We did a dinner in Beaufield Mews on Thursday night where we did a quick tasting of 6 Burgundy wines, followed by a 4 course dinner. We had about 50 people there and it seems a good time was had by all.
The wines we tasted were :

Macon Vergisson 2007, Gilles Guerrin - tasting very well
Bourgogne 2008, Chavy - a little tight on the night, nicer a few days later
Meursault "Narvaux" 2006, Chavy - showed brilliantly
Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2006, Violot - light, but went down well
Cotes de Nuits Villages 2006, Millot - red of the night in terms of value, ethereal and delicious
Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Poissenots 2004, Humbert - power and concentration and big bucks

The two lads in the shop in Dalkey.....

These two are vrai vignerons, proper winemakers who work hard in the fields and then in the cellar, always doing their best to do justice to the terroir they work. Real wines, from real people, just the way we like it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Danger - Paddies in the Vineyard

Just back from Slovenia and my first harvest. We were in the eastern part of Slovenia, very close to the border with Croatia. Life here, from my superficial experience of it, seems to be a pleasantly simple mix of work, family and friends. No talk of world recession or financial meltdown or politicians expenses or Green Party votes or NAMA or John O'Donohue or Bertie's book and it was all quite a relief, really. They just seem to get on with their lives quietly and pleasantly.

The harvest started with a communal breakfast of bread, meat, cheese, strong sweet coffee and, naturally, wine and schnapps. They drink their wine here with a little sparkling water as a spritzer. The schnapps was neat. Being Irish seems to attract having booze thrust into your hand at every available opportunity. This all seemed like a good idea at the time.
hard at work...

Soon we were in the vineyard picking and collecting the grapes, working as a team, block by block. In fairness, the person who seemed to be busiest seemed to be Renato, whose job was as a kind of mobile barman, keeping everyone topped up with spritzers and schnapps. Everyone else had it pretty easy. In less that 3 hours, we were done. There had been hail early in the season which had reduced the yield by about 50%, but they seemed happy enough with the quality, sugar levels etc the busiest man in the vineyard

Then the real work started - lunch followed by a day-long party of spritzers, schnapps, music dancing, drinking games and talking shite in bad German. As I said, it all made sense at the time.

And the wine? Well that is in tank and should be fermenting away quite happily!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Picking grapes

When I was growing up in Wexford, an important rite of passage / introduction to child labour was to go picking strawberries. Like a scene out of a Charles Bukowski short story, we would gather in the centre of the village and a tractor and trailor would come by to collect us. We would be given a shallow wooden box, our allotted rows and told to start. For those of you who imagine picking strawberries involves gambolling through idyllic meadows, merrily picking as you go, let me tell you it is backbreaking work which involves hunkering down in the mud, foraging for berries on the ground and then slowly filling the box for which you eventually get paid a pittance.

The temptation to eat the berries or, worse still, start throwing them at your neighbours and inadvertently starting a strawberry war by the end of which everybody is blood red, was usually too much to bear.

My strawberry picking career was mercifully short - it went something like this: Arrive in field. Start picking. Eat some strawberries. Throw some strawberries, starting strawberry war. Look forlornly at proper workers who had filled their boxes three times already. Morning break. Go home. Watch Wimbledon for the rest of the day.

Anyway, thirty years later, this weekend I am revisiting the world of fruit picking - I am off to the harvest in Slovenia. Liam has an acre or so of vines and this Saturday is harvest day. This is my first harvest, so I am really looking forward to it. I just keep telling myself, I am doing a harvest - it's not the same as picking strawberries.

Will report back next week.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Winemaker Dinner October 15th

We are delighted to announce that 2 of our favourite producersfrom Burgundy - Philippe Chavy and Jean Marc Millot are going to join us for our Burgundy Dinner in Beaufield Mews on October 15th.

If you are interested or know anyone who is, give me a call for info or book directly with Beaufield Mews.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Decisions, decisions

Bit of a break there, mustn't have been drinking anything interesting. We have a Burgundy Dinner coming up in Beaufield Mews on October 15th and I pretty much had the list of wines for tasting put together, except for the most expensive red. I wanted to try to get a range of styles, prices and producers, but I was torn between th Vosne Romanee 2006 from Mugneret Gibourg and the Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Poissenots 2004 from Domaine Humbert.

Nothing for it but to open them up and try them. If I have to then drink them over the weekend, well that's a sacrifice I am willing to make. First the Gevrey - Poissenots is typically quite a powerful, full-bodied style of Gevrey and 2004 is no exception. Very open, loads going on here, very expressive nose, plenty of fruit, but earthy as well, very complex. A touch of "gout de millesime" here, but it just adds to the complexity.

The Vosne, when opened on Friday was very tight and coiled. There was an element of the signature Mugneret aromas and lush raspberyy velvet typical of this wine, but it is still restrained. We left it till Sundat, decanted it, dusted of our Riedel Burgundy glasses and had it with a great casserole that Pam made yesterday and it was magic.

On balance though, I think the Gevrey will show better on the 15th. Keep the Vosne for the long haul.

If anyone is interested in the dinner, you can call me for details - 01 2353054- or contact Beaufield Mews directly.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Here we go again

It's starting again. The anti-drink brigade are getting limbered up. The report last week by a pschologist who said that "middle-class" parents who tried to get their children to have a responsible approach to drink by allowing them a glass of wine with dinner when they are sixteen or seventten are naive and basically leading their children down a path to alcoholism, liver disease and eternal damnation. I read the article and it was startlingly devoid of any scientific evidence, it just seemed to be this one guy's opinion. Yet it was front page news in the Irish Times and it was followed up by a full page article on the front of Saturday's weekend section. This article had a headline "Go on, darling, have a drink" and a large cartoon of 5 or 6 teenagers with glasses of wine in their hands.

This psychologist's idea is that complete a complete ban on drink in the house is the best way to teach your children how to behave. This is how Ireland has traditionally done things and it has obviously worked brilliantly and we don't have any binge-drinking at all.


Why not try to be a bit more European in this regard. In Italy and Spain, it is profoundly uncool to be drunk; it is seen as a weakness and a lack of control. Yet they drink wine with pretty much every meal, wine is as cheap as chips and life seems to be perfectly civilised. Why can't we do this? Just like sex, teenagers are going to do it whether we want them to or not. What is wrong with a little education from the parents with regard to alcohol? Take the mystery out of it, lead by example with regard to moderation, it seems to make sense to me.

You would imagine there was a huge teenage wine-drinking problem in the country. I have been standing behind the counter of a wine shop for 10 years now and I have never, not even once, had someone underage looking for wine. However, we close at 8pm and I wander past O'Brien's where they have plenty of young people (not necessarily underage) buying beer, cider, vodka etc.

But not wine.

The leaking of anti-drink propaganda happened this time last year as well and we were hit with a 50c increase in duty on wine. Prices have fallen since so this rise has been swallowed by the wine trade and then some. Sales have also fallen, so the take on excise is down since the increase was introduced. What would a normal person do - leave duty alone maybe or even decrease it to try and boost sales and therefore the tax take? We are not dealing with normal people here..

So is this "research" being promoted by the geniuses in the Dept of Finance to soften us up for another rise is excise duty?

You betcha.

A great weekend

We were visiting friends at the weekend and, as well as some amazing weather, we also enjoyed (thanks to the generosity of the aforementioned friends) some amazing wines. Lineup on Friday was :

Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle - refreshing, crisp, quite broad

Donnhoff Riesling Spatlese - delice, off-dry but amazing balance and concentration, delicious

Mugneret Gibourg Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru "Feusselottes 2002" - our fave Burgundy producer, great terroir, great vintage, this was stunning

Faiveley Mazis Chambertin 2000 - tight by comparison, still coiled, but will be excellent in 5-10 years time and certainly no hardship now.

Food and wine were so good, we completely forgot to talk about politics, economy etc!!

We had a sensible earlyish night and had a great lunch on the beach the next day with the leftover roast lamb and risotto from the night before. We washed this down with a bottle of Bruno Paillard Vintage Champagne from the 1999 vintage. I have been somewhat underwhelmed by other champagnes from this celebrated producer, but this was excellent. Sun blazing, we still haven't spoken about the R word.

We spent the afternoon on the beach with the kids, even got into the sea and got home to get ready for the night ahead.

That night, the big guns came out, there were people coming and going, great night had by all...
lineup as follows:

Cristal 1996 - just coming into its own, this was amazing stuff, great balance of elegance and power - excellent.

St. Michael Eppan Centenary Wine 2007 (magnum) - this was a special bottle given to us to celebrate the centenary of this excellent winery. It was a mystery blend, full and rich, possibly more suited to food, rather than necking it back before dinner as we were.

Carillon Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Perrieres 1996 - like most white burgundies from the late 90s, this wine has had its issues with early oxidisation, but this bottle was magic, fresh as a daisy with a stony, mineral finish.

Remoissenet Charmes Chambertin 1996 - amazing nose on this, palate still a bit tight. Not sure if it is going anywhere, but still delicious.

Ducru Beaucaillou 1995 - wine of the night for Pam, pure, drinking perfectly, Bordeaux at its wonderful best.

Pegau 1998 - seemed a bit rustic after the polished sheen on the Ducru, fully mature and very good.

COS Scyri 2000 (magnum) - smooth and funky, easy drinking and very good

Pieropan Recioto Le Colombare 2000 - we skipped dessert but had a glass of this to finish - sweet with nice marmaldey fruit and good length.

All in all a fantastic weekend, good for the soul. Great food, great wine, great weather, great company. And no mention of NAMA!!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Spanish Wine Tasting in the Shelbourne

I don't go to many of these generic country tastings but I had three objectives going in to this one:
1. Find some new wines for the shop as the range needs some refreshing.
2. Maybe find a gem from the unrepresented wineries and bring some in for ourselves.
3. Get into town for a few pints afterwards.

I will start with objective No.2. I started tasting in this section and didn't find anything. In this situation, I would like to have the bottles left on a table, a list of prices and then, if I find something brilliant I could go and talk to the winery people. As always, however, the winery people understandably want to tell you about themselves and the wines and you get the whole spiel about fermentation techniques, pruning methods etc etc. I just want to taste 'n' go. anyway, I found it a bit underwhelming.

When I went out to taste with the many importers showing wine, I thought maybe the best wines have already been snapped up. Many good wines, too many to mention. Interesting wines from up and coming regions as well as the old favourites like Rioja and Ribera del Duero.
So, I found some real crackers of new wines at the value end, these will be in this week. That was Objective No. 1 sorted.

We will draw a discreet veil over Objective No.3, all I will say is that my colleague on this occasion is a VERY bad influence. We had dinner in Coppinger Row which we enjoyed. The wine list very disappointing so we stuck to beer.

Monday, August 31, 2009

When is corked not really corked?

We have a no quibbles returns policy here in On the Grapevine - if a bottle is faulty, we will replace it without question. People don't take the piss with this policy, generally if they bring back a bottle, there is something wrong with it.

Occasionally though, a bottle is returned with nothing wrong with it. Recently we have had an expensive bottle of white Burgundy and an expensive bottle of red Bordeaux returned (by 2 different customers). In both cases, we replaced the bottles and, when we tried them later, both allegedly faulty wines were perfect. This gives us something nice to drink that evening, but these replacements cost us money.

Personally, I think it is worth it as the customer leaves the shop happy (always our first priority) and, as I mentioned, the policy is not abused. Or should I taste with the customer and try to educate?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Licence Fee Stupidity

Like everybody else in the wine trade we will have to renew our licence at the end of September. The cost of renewing the licence has doubled since last year from €250 to €500. I know that the government coffers are empty after years of mismanagement and incompetence, but almost everybody agrees that we have to become more competitive as an economy. In order to do this, we have to keep costs down. Everybody is cutting costs, cutting salaries, cutting margins in order to keep their customers happy.

Except the government. They just keep on piling on the charges. I know you might say it is only €250 increase, stop moaning about it, but the cost of any interaction you have with government continues to increase, not just in the wine trade.

The wine trade is just a particularly soft option. Don't forget the 50c increase in duty in the last budget as well and the increase in VAT. Surprise, surprise wine sales are down by 11% this year, resulting in a reduction in excise take for the government.

This is just the kind of visionary leadership we need to steer us out a recession.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Verus Pinot Gris

My colleague Liam is Slovenia-mad and this is his latest discovery from that lovely country. A really clean fresh Pinot Gris with nice weight and balance. We had it with Thai curry the other night and it was delicious. On tasting this weekend.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wine Course

We are running a wine appreciation course in Dalkey starting on Septmeber 14th. It will be small with only 10 places, but Carol is doing the talking and 10 people is a very civilised number for a tasting, so it will be very good indeed.

Call us on 01 2353054 if you want to learn a bit and taste some of the good stuff...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Town Bar & Grill

We got notification this morning from Town Bar & Grill's examiners about the proposed scheme of arrangement for creditors. There are several classes of creditors, Revenue and various banks occupying the upper echelons of this unfortunate society and food and wine suppliers making up the majority of the great unwashed, also known as unsecured creditors.

As far as we can see, Town Bar & Grill went from one supplier to another, running up unpaid debts along the way until the plug was finally pulled by the Revenue.

Everybody is losing out in this situation, but the unsecured creditors are being offered 10% of what they are owed. It is this or nothing. That is the choice. It's like being told you can either have your house burned down or else you can take your telly out and THEN have your house burned down.

The restaurant is now owned by Treasury Holdings. That should make it popular. Why not get some bankers in as waiters and the financial regulator in as sommelier while you are at it. It doesn't really matter what the food is like, it is all very unsavoury.

Monday, August 17, 2009

What we drank over the weekend....

I've been reviewing the stocks at home, we don't have much - mainly random bottles put away over the years and samples still to be tried. Some of them are getting a bit long in the tooth so we have started getting stuck in to them. First up on Friday wa Meerlust Rubicon 1997. I'm not normally too enthusiastic about south African reds, finding them over-oaked and I am always suspicious that they might be throwing in a bit of Pinotage on the sly.

Anyway, Meerlust Rubicon has always been a favourite and I was keen to see how this was getting on. On the nose it reminded me of Bordeaux - cedar, pencil shavings, tobacco - all the stuff you would expect from an aged claret. I felt the fruit had dried out a little on the palate and as a result, the overall effect was somewhat underwhelming. Pleasant, but past its best, just about hanging in there.

Last night, we had a nice piece of lamb and a bottle of Tignanello 1996 that has been waving at me for a few weeks now. This was one of the original Supertuscans, 80% SAngiovese and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. When I tasted it first, I thought it had a strange metallic taste, the fruit wasn't brilliant and those SAngiovese tannins were sticking out a bit. It got better as the meal went on and it opened up a bit. Overall, I was hugely disappointed with this wine and, if I had spent €150 or so in a restaurant, I would have been really annoyed. However, Pam really liked it, so maybe it was just me.

On Saturday, we were out in Ouzo's - we had a really nice meal there - and, to drink we had a bottle of Alasia Sec, a Muscat from Piedmont. This was aromatic, fresh and fruity and accompanied our seafood well. Reasonably priced too at €24. The fish in Ouzo's is very good and the service was charming. My only complaint is that the wine list comes only from one supplier - but then, I am biased.

So, we had two iconic, world class, well aged reds and 1 bottle of a cheap white from a co-op in Piedmont. Of the three, I enjoyed the white most of all - is there something wrong with me? Or should I be drinking these wines earlier?

Maybe a bit of both.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Yet another casualty

Locks Restaurant has closed as of yesterday.

Sad for all involved, including suppliers who have to take yet another hit.

Hopefully this is the last one.


Le Macchiole at a knockdown price

Carol snaffled the last bottle of Rosso di Sera, so I am on to my next Great-Wine-I-Am-Fed-Up-Looking-At offer.

Le Macchiole is a truly great producer based in Bolgheri on the Tuscan coast, next door to Ornellaia. The wine we have some bottles remaining is The Paleo Rosso 1999. This wine is 85% Cabernet SAuvignon and 15% Cabernet franc. Bordeaux blend, with Italian style, this delicious wine is now at its peak. Full-bodied, rich and smooth with acidity and tannins a nice reminder of Tuscany. A food wine, but very rewarding and very stylish. RRP €55 - Sale Price €25.

Bottle quantities only, first come first served - help me free up shelf space!!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

How do they do it?

I always think it is amazing, when you read about companies going into liquidation, how much they always owe the Revenue Commissioners. Take the case of a certain restaurant gone into examinership who owed revenue the guts of 500k. How does it build up to such an amount?

The wine business is pretty closely monitored by the Revenue Commissioners as it has to be, given the amounts involved and, from our perspective, it is hard to see how a business can rack up so much Revenue debt without alarm bells going off.

Anybody know?

Is it too optimistic to think the worst is behind us or is there more carnage to come...?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Herdade dos Grous Sale - down by €3 per btl!!

Having come back from Portugal, I was reminded about how good the wines from Portugal are getting. Grous is a winery in Alentejo, right next door to the famous Maladinha winery and the wines are made by the same winemaker as their more famous next-door neighbour. The winemaker's name is Luis Duarte, one of the best regarded winemakers in the country. The red is rich, full-bodied and smooth and the white is delicious, fresh and fruity.

Price is down from €15.50 to €12.50 per bottle - bargain!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Adelaide Hills Tasting coming up

An Evening in the Adelaide Hills

Thursday 3rd September 2009

Tutored Tasting; 6.45pm – 8.15pm
Tasty Nibbles; 8.30pm
Dun Library, Royal College of Physicians
N.O. 6 Kildare Street, Dublin 2

Tickets are €15, if you want to go along, contact:

John McDonnell,
Wine Australia Ireland
065 7077264

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Don't listen to the Central Bank

On a day when the Central Bank have told us that we are in even more shit that their last terrible prediction, we can only console ourselves with the thought: What do they know?

Sticking with the positive, here is some news from us, all of it good.

Rosso di Sera 2000 - Supertuscan from top Chianti producer Poggiopiano reduced from €50 to €25 until its all gone. Only bottle quantities left. We drank this last weekend and it is seriously good.

Foradori - price reduction from €22.50 to €19.99. Had this last night, gorgeous.

Grauzan Pinot Noir just in - this is light, juicy Pinot from the uber-reliable Domaine Grauzan. A very un-Pinot price of €10.99

Hamelin Chablis is back in after a spell out of stock. We have been unable to get same quality at this price, so it's a big relief to get it back in.

Zenato range are all reduced in price, including Ripassa down to under €20.

So, don't listen to the Central Bank - for some cheerful news, try us!!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Yalumba Dinner report - better late than never

The night before I went on holidays, we were lucky enough to have Jane Ferrari, Yalumba's worldwide wine ambassador, in Dalkey to do a Winemaker Dinner for us. Jane is brilliant craic, keeping the room's attention with a mixture of wit, charm and deep knowledge of the wines in front of her.

We had about 50 people in Jaipur for a Monday night and we tasted the following:

Wild Ferment Eden Valley Chardonnay 2007
Virgilius 2007
Barossa Patchwork Shiraz 2006
Barossa Shiraz Viognier 2006
Bush Vine Grenache 2007
The Signature Cabernet Shiraz 2004
The Menzies Coonawarra Cabernet 2003

The wines were all really very good, but the winner for me was The Signature 2004, a glorious blend of Cabernet and Shiraz that had concentration, fruit, elegance, balance and long, long length. Even at €40 ish a bottle, I really recommend this wine, the nicest drop from Oz that I have had in a long time and it would give similarly-priced bottles from Bordeaux something to think about.

Jaipur was excellent as it always is. I had to scoot off early as we had a taxi coming at 4am the next morning; the party was in full swing as I left....

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What to drink when it's hot?

I know it's not hot, but I'm just back from Portugal where it was hot. Very hot. We tried a couple of times to drink the very nice Portuguese reds, but just couldn't face them, even chilled. We had a half bottle (we were with the children, so we had a limited window for consumption!) in an Italian restaurant one night served at room temperature (about 27 degrees) and it was like having a glass of soup.

The answer? Rosé. Cheap. Cold. Wet. Lowish in alcohol. You don't have to think about it too much. All in all, perfect holiday fare. Of course, they figured this out ages ago in the South of France.

Is there any point in trying to drink expensive Rosé? We have different ones on sale in the shop from around a tenner up to Domaine Ott at €32. Is it worth it? I don't know - I feel a tasting coming on....

Any views welcome - I need to be convinced.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Amazing Henschke Tasting at L'Ecrivain

Stephen and Prue Henschke were in town during the week and I was lucky enough to be asked in to taste the wines of this historic estate from Australia's Eden Valley. The wines are far from cheap, but the quality is very, very good indeed. We tasted:

Lenswood Coralinga Sauvignon Blanc 2006 (about €25) - best Oz Sauv Blanc I have tasted (not hard) very, very good. Nice texture, mineral edge.
Tilly's Vineyard Semillon/Chrd/ S Blanc 2006 (€25)- fresh, fruity, mineral finish again
Julius Riesling 2006 (€29) - lemons and limes, stony finish, good
Lenswood Pinot Gris 2006 (€29) - rich, soft fruit character, again quite mineral
Lenswood Pinot Noir 2004 (€45) - found this a little confected, tinned strawberry fruit on the nose, but nice spicy finish. Would expect more at the price
Abbotts Prayer Merlot 2004 (€65) - prices getting a bit mad for Ozzie merlot? This didn't do it for me I'm afraid
Henry's Seven 2005 (€30)- Shiraz Grenache Vignier blend - this is more like it. Rich dark berry fruit, sliky smooth tannins, 15% but carries it easily.
Johann's Garden Grenache (€33) - Chateauneuf du Pape? Yes it carries it off well - full-bodied, full on, peppery finish. A bit hot, but that's to be expected of Grenache...
Keyneton Estate Euphonium 2004 (€40)- a blend of shiraz, cab etc - refined and restrained, elegant, not a blockbuster. concentration and balance - very very good.
Mount Edelstone Shiraz 2004 (€85)- opulent, rich fruit jumping out of the glass. Hugely complex, concentrated but not too heavy, very drinkable. Smooth texture, long finish. World class.
Cyril Henschke Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 (€100) -very polished, concentrated, beautiful cassis and cedar fruit, classic stuff. Long finish, really excellent.
Hill of Grace 2001 (€400?) - spice, black fruit, damsons on nose. Amazing concentration, balance and fruit definition. Needs time, cheese and solitude.

All in all, a very impressive tasting. The issue for me is, at these prices, how do I sell them?

L'Ecrivain was excellent as always.

Friday, June 26, 2009

On tasting this weekend

I have mislaid my notebook, so Iwill continue my Burgundy producer reports next week. In the meantime, this weekend we have on tasting:

St. Michael Eppan Pinot Bianco 2008 - fresh as a daisy, quite round with loads of fruit and a long, crisp finish.

Enzo Boglietti Dolcetto 2007 - a bit lighter than the 06, but not lacking either fruit or concentration, this is very high quality dolcetto from one of Piedmont's rising stars.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mugneret Gibourg

Mugneret Gibourg is probably the best known and most highly sought-after estate that we deal with - most of the others are upandcomers or leftofcentres, which is often the way it seems to work with our producers. Anyway, their cellar is less cellar, more nuclear shelter. You go into the house, through a big door, downstairs, through a barrel cellar, through another cellar that seems to be used for bottling, through a little tunnel that goes under the road (Guinness have one of those in St. James' Gate as well, I dimly remember from my few months there) and then into a big cellar where we taste.

We had been having a conversation over lunch about the veracity or not of different styles in different villages (Vosne silky v Gevrey meaty and so on) or whether the style a producer brings overrides the village style. If you are a terroir fan and look in detail at the geological composition of the soil, you will see that there are different types of soil in each village and you could easily get the same type of soil in part of Gevrey and part of, say, Morey St. Denis.

Anyway, Mugneret is a great example of a producer having a style. From beginning to end, I think there is a Migneret "style" and what a style it is.....

We tasted:

Bourgogne 07 - usually best Bourgogne around ; this one good as ever - silky, pure Pinot fruit, decent structure, delicious
Vosne Romanee - amazing nose, great purity of fruit, very sexy
Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Les Chaignots - fine, concentrated, balanced, elegant, long
Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru Les Feusselots - mineral style
Echezeaux - meaty, structured, tannic, masculine
Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru (young vines Ruchottes) - excellent fruit, nice concentration
Ruchottes chambertin - very polished, very mineral, very long
Clos de Vougeot - mineral, amazing concentration, excellent

I know my notes don't really do these wines justice, but they were and always are bloody amazing. From Bourgogne up, this producer never fails to impress.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Darviot Perrin

The cellar of Didier Darviot is the most impeccable of any cellar I have been into, in Burgundy or anywhere else. You go in and he has half bottles of the full range, open, lined up and ready to taste. There are clean glasses and spitoons and everything!

Didier is a perfectionist and this perfectionism is reflected in the cleanliness of the cellar, the perfect line-up of half bottles etc. He, along with his wife, also have some amazing holdings of vineyards, including a beautiful parcel of the little known Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru vineyard called Blanchots Dessus. This is over the wall from Le Montrachet and sells for about 1/5th of the price. Still mad expensive, mind.

We have been tasting at this estate for about 6 or 7 years now and this was the best line-up I have ever tasted, all were perfect expressions of their terroir and the principled correctness of M. Darviot himself.

We tasted, all from 2007:

Bourgogne Blanc Les Magnys - from Meursault, single vineyard - broad, rich and lovely
Meursault Clos de la Velle - richer, broader, v good
Meursault Tessons - stonier, more concentrated
Chassagne Montrachet Bergerie - 90 year old vines based 100 yds south of Montrachet - pure, rich & elegant
Meursault 1er Cru Charmes - 100% new oak, wouldn't know it, excellent
Meursault 1er Cru Genevrieres - more citrus, angular
Meursault 1er Cru Perrieres - suave, concentrated, rich, nice balance (my fave of the 3)
Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Blanchots Dessus - massive concentration, full, mineral, balance
Bourgogne Rouge Les Magnys - same vineyard as white - raspberry nose, light fresh fruity easy
Monthelie Les Crays - light, crisp, fruity
Volnay Les Blanches - top of the hill - raspberries & cream, bit richer, very nice balance
Beaune Belissandes - tight, mineral style, food wine, nice fruit though
Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Bondues - sexier style ,like a Vosne, raspberries again, v suave

Are these my favourite wines from Burgundy? Maybe....

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Philippe Chavy

Going into Philippe Chavy's tasting room is like going into a room full of people trying to give up smoking. There is tension in the air, not from Philipppe, who is Mr. Relaxed as usual, but from the wines themselves. As a range, they tend to be edgy, nervous, glancing from side to side.

Philippe is based in Puligny Montrachet, an appellation often generalised as being "racy". I don't like generalisations, especially in Burgundy and I'm not entirely sure what racy means, but I like the sound of it. We tasted the following wines, all from 2007:

Aligote - quite rich, nice.
Bourgogne - tight, pure.
Meursault - v good
Puligny Montrachet - lighter, delicate, a bit closed, a bit short?
Meursault Narvaux - - excellent purity and concentration
Puligny Corvees dees Vignes - tight, concentrated and long, big step up from basic Puligny
Puligny Montrachet Rue Rousseau - oaky, but excellent
Meursault Blagny 1er Cru Sous le Dos d'Ane - lemon sherbet fruit, mineral finish, delicious
Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Folatieres - no note, but delicious from memory!

Excellent range as always and with the new 25% discount on Philippe's wines from 2007, we hope to be able to shift some wine for him.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Burgundy Report - Vincent Daux, Rully

In our continuing quest to find wines in tune with the Zeitgeist without taking our eye off the quality ball, these wines might fit the bill. (Serious mixing of metaphors there, sorry about that).

Vincent is like the kid in school who always did meticulous school projects. Neatly presented, thoughtful projects that always got lots of praise from the teacher. He has carried these slightly annoying traits into winemaking. Reds and whites in the Rully appellation that are well-made, clean, fresh and pure. Meanwhile, Vincent is there with his neat hair and his freshly ironed shirt, smiling at the oohs and aahs emanating from the gathered tasters.

Two cuvees of white, the basic one is so good that it makes the more expensive one superfluous. Likewise the red. These are the kind of wines that you could drink every day without feeling any hardship whatsoever. These could be good, we haven't bought any of these yet, but may have to consider them.

The presentation is very good, obviously, this is Vincent we are talking about. Still he smiles....

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Burgundy Report - Gilles Guerrin

We started our first morning by heading south to the Macon, about 45 minutes from Beaune. First stop was Gilles Guerrin, in Pouilly Fuisse. Gilles has two ranges - a "Tradition" range, vinified in stainless steel and a Cuvee Prestige range, vinified partly in oak. He also tends to put the older vines fruit in the prestige range. He has 3 wines in each range - a Macon Vergisson, a Saint Veran and a Pouilly Fuisse. So it is all nice and symmetrical, the way I like it.

He keeps these two families separate from each other in the cuverie, it is almost as if they don't get on, a little bit of family tension. We first tasted the country cousins of the "tradition" range and these wines are very straightforward, no-nonsense, down to earth examples of their type. Ronseal wines, they do exactly what they say on the bottle and they do it very well indeed.

We then went into the barrel room, which is a bit posher, but not much. You get the impression that that these wines have a bit of a superiority complex, little do they know that they will get blended with 50% from the tradition range for the final blend in any case. They are all a bit richer and smoother alright - the only one that maybe needs to lose a bit of puppy fat is the Pouilly Fuisse Vieilles Vignes.

We have always gone for the straight Macon Vergisson and Pouilly Fuisse and the Saint Veran from the Prestige range - this visit did nothing to suggest we should change; I still think they have the best balance in their respective appellations.

Overall, I was happy with the quality of the wines; Gilles has been a good source of reasonably-priced, well-made white Burgundy for a few years now and he continues to be on top of his game. Gilles is never exactly bubbly, but he was quite vociferous this year on how bad sales were all over - even local people weren't buying for communions or stuff that usually happens this time of year. We will have new stocks of wines from Gilles in the next few days...

Friday, June 5, 2009

Burgundy Report Part 1

I have just got back from our annual trip to Burgundy, which will require a few posts to cover. I thought I would start with some general views on the state of the market in general and the 2007 vintage which was mostly what we tasted. I am not a great taker of notes, to my shame, but I will battle to read my largely illegible scribbles to at least record what we tried over the 2 days.

The vines were in flower while we were there with perfect weather so, all going well, the harvest should happen around the middle of September. The rule of thumb is that you count 100 days from the end of flowering and that is when you should harvest. Ideally they will have the same weather as we had this week - warm, sunny and a slight breeze to keep the grapes healthy - and if that happens, 2009 is looking like a very good vintage indeed. Early days, however, and we have 2007 and 2008 to get through in the meantime.

2007 was a difficult vintage for Burgundy with a cool, wet summer. This, in the past, would have resulted in wines that, at best, lacked concentration or, at worst, were ruined by rot. The key is to deal with good producers who know what they are doing. This means going out into the vineyard and cutting out bunches affected by rot, managing your vineyards carefully and rigourous sorting when the grapes arrive in the winery at harvest time. We tasted nearly 100 wines over the couple of days and I was amazed by the quality - no problems with concentration at all and, for the most part, they were very charming and true to their origins.

The vignerons themselves were a touch downbeat (who isn't?). Exports have fallen through the floor, the negociants (large brands such as Latour etc) are reporting drops in sales of 30% and more, bulk prices are falling which means they will be earning less money and they have just put in 2 very difficult vintages in a row (2007 and 2008) in which they had to work extremely hard to make good wine and save the vintages from the vagaries of the weather.

Luckily, they all believe in their terroir and they believe in the quality they can achieve and, if they have to take a hit for a couple of years, well so be it. They still believe that focus on quality is paramount and I am with them on that one.

Details will follow...

Zenato Promotion

We have a great deal on Zenato at the moment, as follows:

Zenato Lugana down from €14.50 to €12.00

Zenato Valpolicella down from €14.50 to €12.00

Zenato Ripassa down from €22.50 to €18.50

Stock up would be my suggestion.....

Monday, May 25, 2009

Muddy Water tasting this Thursday

We have our Muddy Water tasting this Thursday, the following wines will be on tasting:

Muddy Water Rose
Muddy Water Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Muddy Water Dry Riesling 2007
Muddy Water James Harwick Riesling 2006
Muddy Water Chardonnay 2006
Muddy Water Hare's Breath Pinot Noir 2007

Should be good. New pricing as well, everything has come down. It's all good news from Muddy Water....

Monday, May 18, 2009

Darviot Perrin 2006 and Chavy 2007

These are the wines we tasted at the weekend in the shop:

Darviot Perrin generally runs a vintage behind because his malos take an age to finish and he doesn'r rush to bottle, that's why his are 06 while Chavy is 07.

Darviot Perrin Bourgogne "Les Magnys" 2006 - reduced from €25.50 to €20
This has a complex nose, quite broad on the palate and rich, smooth and classy on the palate. Red apples and ripe, citrus fruit blend well with the oak to make for a bargain at this price.

Darviot Perrin Chassagne Montrachet "Bergerie" 2006 - reduced from €45 to €35
This has all of the above, only more so. Broad, expansive on the palate, ripe fruit and just enough oak. This is concentrated but elegant and harmonious.

Darviot Perrin Meursault "Tessons" 2006 - reduced from€48 to €35
This was not as open as the Chassagne, but again quite full-bodied, rich but elegant. Very nice, but probably needs another year or two to show its stuff.

Darviot Perrin Beaune Premier Cru "Belissandes" 2006 - down from €40 to €30
This was quite tannic and tight when first opened, but was better a few days later. Very Cote de Beaune-style Pinot, lightish body, but with nice strawberry fruit but quite earthy and mineral on the finish.

Darviot Perrin Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru "Bondues" 2006 - down from €40 to €30
The second red from Darviot was more attractive for early drinking - silky, sexy texture, fruit darker - raspberry instead of strawberry - softish tannins. Really charming, no hardship involved whatsoever.

Chavy Bourgogne 2007 - reduced from €25 to €20
Made with grapes rom Puligny, this is usually like a mini Puligny. This was much fresher and crisper in style - it usually is, but exaggerated by the 07 vintage. Classt though, very nice, needs food.

Chavy Puligny Montrachet 2007 - reduced from €50 to €37.50
Sadly faulty. Not corked, but volatile - full bottle still lurking in the back of the shop!

Chavy Meursault "Narvaux" 2007 - reduced from €48 to €36
Once again Philippe has crafted a fine Meursault, crisper and fresher again that Darviot, but still very classy wine. 6 months in bottle will make it even better.

A great tasting all round from 2 of our favourite producers and these wines are now very good value at these prices. Order 12 bottles and you will get a further 10% discount.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Burgundy Tasting this weekend

A reminder about our tasting this weekend of the wines from Philippe Chavy and Darviot Perrin. If you like Meursault, Chassagne Montrachet, Puligny Montrachet etc and if you like the sound of 25% off, then come along for this great pre-arrival offer. All day Friday and Saturday in Dalkey.

See you there!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Gregoris Pinot Grigio back in

After a few weeks of a wait while Antonio bottled the 2008, the Gregoris Pinot Grigio is finally back in. I have just opened it as it is on tasting in the shop and it is really good - nose of pear drops, soft on the palate, with loads of fruit, very easy-drinking and just the ticket. A real Pinot Grigio that is actually made from Pinot Grigio grapes(!) from a great grower. Come in and try it.

We also have the Anticaia Salice Salentino Riserva 2005, which is simply stonking.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Pieropan Soave 2008

The 2008 vintage from Pieropan is just in today. It is bottled under screwcap, according to the wisdom of Italian wine laws they can't call it Soave Classico, so it is labelled simply as a Soave. The Italian authorities really need to get their act together so that they can keep up with forward thinking producers in their region and with the wine world in general. We have it on tasting in the shop this weekend if you would like to see how it tastes.

Also on tasting is the Herdade dos Grous ref wine from Alentejo in Portugal. Haven't tried this in a while but it is from superstar winemaker Luis Duarte's estate and is pretty good stuff. Come in for a taste!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Are new world prices coming down?

We just have a new delivery of Muddy Water wines in and, for the first time, we have decent stocks of their delicious Sauvignon Blanc. Due to the strength of the euro vis a vis the NZ dollar, we can buy it much cheaper as well, so that we can sell it now at 14.99 instead of 17.50 that it was. The only other New world wine that we import is Felton Road and their prices will be coming down later in the year as well when we get new stock in.

Why are wines from Chile, Argentina, USA etc not coming down? Is the euro not strong versus the dollar as well? If anybody can shed light, let me know...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Another Casualty

I was sad to see that Mint Restaurant closed last week. Dublin has few enough fine dining establishments as it is without one of the best ones closing. There were better-informed people than I who said that cooking at that high level is only viable in a bigger premises, and maybe the slowdown in business put them on the wrong side of the knife-edge. Either way, I am sure the talented Mr. McGrath will be back at some stage.

Anyway, it is a loss to the restaurant scene, but the staff are suffering a bigger loss and I'm sure some suppliers will have to take a hit as well. All in all, bad news all round.

Change is good

I'm still in shock. I got charged this morning in the bank to get change for the till.

Next thing they will be charging for providing the most basic service such as lodging or withdrawing money.

What? They do already?

Michael O'Leary must get his inspiration from these.... ammm, what's the word...people.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fattori di Basciano

In last Saturday's Irish Times, John Wilson said of the Basciano Chianti Rufina 2006:

"This was the star of a tasting of Italian wines a few months ago. Nobody could believe the price. Lovely, quite elegant dark cherry fruits, supple and very easy to drink. This is the kind of wine that should be in every Italian restaurant throughout the nation."

Nice one, John. Of course, I wouldn't restrict it to just Italian restaurants - I think they all should stock it. We have been dealing with Paolo Masi and his lovely wife Anna Rita for about 7 or 8 years now. We had been looking for a good, reasonably priced Chianti for a while , done some research and heard they were a good source for wines when looking at value for money. WE visited them at Vinitaly first and were impressed with the wines. However, being nothing if not thorough, we then tasted "cheap" Chiantis for the following excruciating 2 days. Like a girl shopping for shoes, we then returned to the first place and did the deal.

Paolo took the business over from his father Renzo Masi and he has 2 labels. Fattori di Basciano is their own property and their own grapes from very nice vineyards in Chianti Rufina. Renzo Masi is the other label and this is made from grapes he buys from his neighbours and is a little less serious than the Basciano label. They also do great table wines called Poggerissi, a red and a white. Brilliant value at every price level. They came out really well in a Chianti tasting done by Jancis Robinson recently as well, if I can find the link I will post it in the next few days.

In the meantime, if you want to try it, check the stockists in the Irish Times....

Friday, April 17, 2009

Beaufield Mews - great wine list

Now I am biased because I know John and Julie in Beaufield Mews quite well and they stock some of our wines, so I am declaring this upfront. However, we were there the other night and the list John has put together is really interesting and incredibly well priced.

At a time when restaurants are getting slated for not offering value for money, this is a real relief. My experience of some (un-named) restaurants recently is that value can be got on a headline early bird menu, but the wine list is a relic of the Celtic Tiger bad old days. In many restaurants, I find it hard to order any wine because the list is such a ripoff and I find myself choosing the wine they are making least margin on rather than what I want to drink.

Not so here. You can pick from a well chosen, eclectic list safe in the knowledge that, at any price level, you are being charged fair prices.

Throw in a beautiful room and decent grub and you have a reasonable offering. Well worth considering...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Good Friday - what's so good about it?

When I was but a boy, I often wondered why Good Friday was so called. Jesus seemed like a nice enough guy, what was so good about him being crucified? On top of that, you couldn't eat chocolate or meat or anything, the day really had very little to recommend it. But then I joined the wine trade and realised that Good Friday was one of the only 2 days in the year when you can't sell alcohol. It gets better, because usually the sales on Thursday make up for the lost sales (today has been quiet so far, mind you...). So you get a day off with no loss in sales - it is good after all.

Of course, this being Ireland , there has to be a way around not being able to buy drink. That loophole is that you can buy drink if you are in transit, so you can buy a drink on trains, boats etc. Busy day for Iarnrod Eireann, then.

La Peniche is a restaurant on a barge on the Grand Canal and they are booked out for four sittings (I mean sailings) tomorrow. How cool is that? See for further info.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Some good news?

You know that things are bad when prices are coming down in Burgundy. What's next, champagne?

Anyway, the first indication of this is that 2 of our favourite producers, Didier Darviot-Perrin and Phillippe Chavy have come to us with an unprovoked price reduction of 25%. We were in a position of buying very little from them this year as it is not really a Puligny Montrachet kind of environment out there at the moment.

However, that is a major discount and we will be doing a big tasting / event in May to get people to try the wines and see the very real value we will be able to offer on these wines from the summer onwards. Hopefully, we will be able to deliver a bit of volume for the producers and give our customers a good deal.

Details will follow when I have them....

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Credit where credit is due

No excise duty increase on wine - what a relief! As readers of this blog will know, I haven't been this government's greatest cheerleader, but the decision not to increase alcohol duties because of the fear of driving even more people to shop in Northern Ireland has to be welcomed and is the right thing to do in the current climate. We are actively looking to reduce prices where possible and cut costs where possible in order to pass on savings to customers. To put prices up at the moment would have just seemed ridiculous. Thankfully, common sense has prevailed.

I haven't heard the rest of the budget but I will leave that to more qualified people than I.

Tune in tomorrow for some good news from Burgundy re pricing!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

New York buzz

Pam and myself went on a long-planned trip to NYC last week to celebrate a significant birthday, it was our first time there and wow what a place, it was fantastic, great buzz. Here are my restaurant tips.

I don't have addresses etc, but Google is great.

In chronological order:

Bella Vita - near Times Square - stumbled into this place, real locals place for pizza or pasta at lunchtime - massive portions and great value.

Keens Steakhouse - traditional New York steakhouse in midtown. Massive, succulent and juicy steaks - I had a massive, daunting T-bone. Pam had to ask for a small, girlie fillet that was left over from lunchtime. They weren't used to lightweights, but handled it well. We drank Haut Medoc de Giscours 01 whaich was lovely.

Balthazar - French brasserie style in Soho. Great atmosphere, large room, high ceilings, food was very good and not too expensive. We drank the house Beaujolais in a carafe, hardly even counts as drinking, but went down very easy.

Lombardi's, Little Italy - great, great Pizza - a must see, but don't unless you want pizza as they don't have anything else, not even dessert.

Spotted Pig, Greenwich Village - very busy gastropub with very high standard of food and a really nice wine list. Great place for watching the beautiful people. WE went for the amazing large burgers. Pam drank a glass of Bourgogne from Leflaive and I had a glass of pleasant Friuliano followed by a disappointing glass of zin from Ridge (some Cuvee I didn't know, not Geyserville).

La Goulue - another French place but a great brunch on Sunday, nice food, nice atmosphere and cocktails included in a fixed price menu. They are moving in July, but I'm sure their website will
inform us of where.
The Guinness was surprisingly drinkable everywhere we went

The Booterstown story

As many of you know, the Booterstown shop closed down a number of weeks ago. Many people have been asking me what happened, so here goes...

This shop operated as a franchise and, as a business and legally, was totally separate from our own shop in Dalkey. Bill, the owner, after working full time in Vodafone for the last few years, decided to put it into liquidation. Many suppliers have been affected by this, none less than ourselves who are out of pocket to the tune of over €15k.

Now businesses fail all the time, and it is certainly no shame or surprise in the "current economic climate", but the way that Bill went about it has left everyone with a bitter taste in their mouth. If everyone had been allowed in to take their stock back in full, we would have been saddened, but not angry. Instead, we are only allowed to take back stock specified on certain unpaid invoices. So, in my case, there is over €13k of stock in the shop, but I can only get back around 5k - the balance is older stock that has technically been paid for. The other 11k of the stock that has been invoiced has been sold over Christmas. Is this fair? No, I don't think so either.

I am not the only one in this situation , there are others in the trade who a just as angry as I am.

By going into liquidation, Bill has chosen to pay a liquidation company out of the pockets of the suppliers to whom he owes money. The liquidation company gets paid in full, Bill's company gets wound down, Bill walks away and the rest of us are left in the shit.

Today's lesson?

Trust nobody.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bring out your dead part 2

Reds - mightn't get them all done, in a bit of a rush:
Chalon Pinot Noir 98 - acidity sticking out, fruit a bit dead, but just about ok
Faiveley Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru 87 - a bit hard as well but decent fruit and nice
Faiveley Clos de Beze 87 - nice nose, fruit still there, acidic as well but nice (I think I ended up drinking this later)
Drouhin Clos des Mouches 85 - sweaty
Mas de Daumas Gassac 98 - expressive, farmyardy, delicious (I did drink some of this later)
Domaine Trevaillon 88 - dirty nose, smoky, vegetal palate - long & smooth
Chateau Vannieres Bandol 93 - nice nose, still tannic, fruit dying a bit
Domaine de la Mordoree Lirac 99 - tannin and pepper and not much else
Produttori de Barbaresco 96 - tannin and acid, little fruit (others liked this)
Selvapiana Bucerchiale 94 - full bodied, very smooth, lots of fruit, nice balance
Arzuaga Reserva 95 - oaky, but nice fruit, full bodied and rich, v good
Condada da Haza 95 - lovely mature fruit, very smooth, I like
Pesquera REserva 94 - smooth, smoky & suave
Pesquera Gran Reserva - v tannic, good fruit, needs food
Ch du Cayron Cahors 95 - hard and nasty
Clos du Gamot 96 - rancid
Leeuwin Art Series Cab Sauv 95 - lovely cedar & tobacco, classic WEst Oz, very smooth
Tahbilk cabernet 92 - a bit tired and emotional
Manso de Valasco 89 - delicious
Beaucastel 81 - a bit shitty but hanging in there
Prieure Lichine 83 - very nice, mature
D-Armailhac 45 - hovering, delicate, floating, ghostly (but nice)

That's it!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Bring out your dead

I was at a dinner a few weeks ago where guests were asked to bring a bottle or bottles of wine which they had in their house for ages (we all have something) that could be great or could be dead. The idea was to try older wines that could be really interesting and have a bit of a wine spring clean. As there were some real wine anoraks invited, we were not allowed to show off - it had to be interesting, not expensive!

The first hour was spent tasting the wines, then we sit down and drink the ones that are good. We had 16 people and about 30-40 wines. Below are some of them, my notes were patchy at the beginning and got waorse as the night went on, but here goes...

Lusca 2006 - this is the Irish wine from Lusk - fresh citrus note, palate dominated by mouthstripping acidity. Surprisingly drinkable.
Cloudy Bay 1998 - very nice, still alive, very interesting
Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Folatieres 1995 - weird rubbery nose, too mushroomy for me (Pam liked it)
Meursault 1er Cru Perrieres 1996 - dead
Genot Boulanger Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru 1999 - very mineral, fruit seconadary but very good
Trevor Jones Chardonnay 2001 - ripe fruit, still alive, very nice
Riesling Smaragd 1995, Wachau - amazing petrol nose, crisp and fresh, very expansive palate
Domaine Huet Le Haut Lieu Sec 1990 - crisp, fresh, honey & lemons, hanging in there
Domaine Huet Le Haut Lieu Sec 1995 - really fresh, crisp and delicious, bang on form
Brundlmayer Gruner Veltliner Spatlese 1983 - sweet, rich marshmallowy - soft and smooth, delicious
Eroica Riesling 2001 - fresh Riesling fruit, crisp, mineral, nice balance
Zind Humbrecht Clos Hauserer 1996 - expansive, broad, amazing complexity - really good
Vouvray Moelleux 1985 (producer?) - dead
Marcel Deiss Gewurztraminer Vendange Tardive 89 Grand Cru - long and intense, excellent
Heidseck Vintage Champagne 1955 - like slightly fizzy sherry - dead

How about that for a mixed bag? Will do the reds tomorrow

Friday, March 13, 2009

10th Birthday coming up

We are open 10 years on St. Patrick's Day and to celebrate we are having a customer day next Tuesday with free glasses of wine or champagne for anyone who fancies a tipple and 20% off ALL stock for one day only. We will be open from 12 till 6pm - hope you can come along.

Before then, of course, we have to beat those dastardly Scots!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Our tasting last Monday

We had our trade tasting on Monday in the stunning Ely CHQ. I saw the cellars there before they were taken over by Ely and every time I go in there I am amazed at what an amazing job they did on that place. It really is stunning and a must-see for any wine fans. They are offering really good value there at the moment as well.

Anyway, back to the tasting. It is always difficult to get people out to tastings - I'm not sure if there is a bit of winetasting overload going on; I was happy enough with the turnout, but would have liked a few more. The people that came were all serious, though and that is possibly more important that getting big crowds. The wines were, happily, all tasting well. It is always a good exercise to taste the range all in one go, something we don't do that often. Out of a tasting of 47 wines, highlights for me were:

Gregoris Pinot Grigio - this was really singing, jumping out of the glass, fresh, aromatic and delicious.

Chateau Miaudoux Bergerac Sec - hadn't tasted it in a while, but this was crisp and fresh from the Sauvignon with the 15% Semillon adding a little roundness. Really good.

Reverdy Sancerre - I had this in Alexis recently and it was lovely. Crisp, but with amazing aromatics and a long, stony, mineral finish. Excellent.

Poggerissi Rosso - amazing value from Basciano - 100% Sangiovese - ripe fruity and straightforward but really easy-drinking. Great house red.

Basciano Chianti Rufina - this again is great value with good concentration, full-bodied and rich. Punches way above its weight.

Degani Valpolicella - the real deal - great purity of fruit, med body, quite concentrated, dangerously easy to drink.

Chateau Larzac Coteaux de Languedoc - Syrah/Grenache blend- med body, very smooth and easy-drinking. Great all-rounder.

Haut Medoc de Giscours - fragrant, reflecting its Margaux roots. Perfect claret.

Felton Road Pinot Noir - expensive, obviously, but what a knockout wine. Rich by Otago standards, incredibly smooth with a silky texture, lovely fruit and a finish that goes on and on. Delicious now but with last for years.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The old reliables

While the country sits waiting, cowering for the new round of fresh indignities to be heaped upon it, there seems to be consensus in the press that income tax rates will go up and that excise duties will be increased significantly. In case you have put the worthless botchjob that was last October's budget into repressed memory, let me remind you that our glorious leaders increased excise duty on wine by 50c per bottle only 4 months ago.

You would imagine that an increase of almost 25% on the most penal tax rates on wine in Europe, resulting in a 40% increase in business for the off-licence trade in Northern Ireland (and resultant loss of business for their southern counterparts and the Irish exchequer) would be damage enough for the time being. Add in the fact that the restaurant sector is haemorrhaging, the retail sector in Ireland stands at the edge of the abyss and what are we looking at? Measures to improve confidence and encourage consumer spending (in this jurisdiction)? Or another increase in taxes on consumption? I think we know the answer.

Every time Brian Cowen forecasts unemployment rates for the end of the year, it goes up - the latest forecast (or is it a target?) is 450,000. Shortsighted, soft, unimaginative increases in duty on alcohol will drive more people to drive up North to do their shopping and discourage people from taking up the great value to be had in Irish restaurants at present. The results will be:

- reduced tax take from booze
- no change in consumption
- huge increase in unemployment from retail and restaurant sectors

Not exactly a win-win, is it?

I know I am biased in this, but let me assure you there are no millionaire wine merchants in Ireland. Most are small business, trying to get by, glad to make a living from doing something we love.

It seems this government is intent on driving the country into the abyss on all fronts, but if you care about wine and can lobby your local TD about this, I think you should. Otherwise the only ones standing after the great depression of 2009/2010 will be the supermarkets with their offerings of industrial wine.

Monday, March 2, 2009

We're having a tasting as well...

Our portfolio tasting is on next Monday in Ely CHQ. This is a chance to open bottles for trade customers and communicate any new wines, price changes etc. The good news is that there are no price increases this year, we have a few new wines, we have dropped a few as well and it is always good to taste the range and get customers to do the same.

It's a bit like having a party though, you just hope people will turn up!!

Tastings, tastings

One of my many discarded resolutions for 2009 was that I was going to keep detailed notes of every single wine I taste a la Michael Broadbent. I think that lasted until the NZ Wine Fair in mid January when everything tasted the same. I am not often photographed with my bicycle either, so it looks like grey hair continues to be the only thing that Michael and myself have in common. Plus ca change....

Anyway, Liberty had their portfolio tasting last week with a dizzying 250 wines on display. I only had the last hour to taste so was pretty focussed. Needless to say, the wines in general were of a very high standard, but my favourite was the Isole e Olena Chianti Classico. Refined, elegant and balanced, pure class in a glass. If I didn't bring in some tasty Italians myself, I would say Liberty have the best Italian list in the country, but they are definitely in the top two!! Their Aussie range is excellent as well, albeit expensive. But you get what you pay for.....

Simon Tyrell had his tasting today in town and he had an excellent range of wines as well, with the stars coming from the Rhone, as you might expect. I really liked the Aphillantes Cotes du Rhone Villages 05, which would make may Chateauneufs blush. The Simone Joseph wines are really good as well, great value as is the MArtinelle Cotes du Ventoux. The last wines I tasted were a traditional style Rioja called Castillo de Clavijo - enjoyed those as well.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Irish Times review of our tasty Chinon today

Chinon Les Granges 2006 Bernard Baudry, 13%, €16 This is a very stylish light-bodied wine with beautifully concentrated summer fruits, and a lightly tannic finish. Try it with creamy chicken dishes, or charcuterie. Baudry also makes one of my favourite rosés, prefect summer drinking, and one of the few rosés for which it is worth shelling out more than €12. Stockists: On the Grapevine, Dalkey and Booterstown; Cabot Co., Westport; Liston’s, Camden Street; Poppy Seed, Clarinbridge; The Wine Room, One Pery Square, Limerick.

Some new value wines

I am happy to report that people are still buying wine, despite the fear and anguish stalking the land. However, people are definitely spending less, either buying fewer bottles or buying less expensive wines. I don't mind - as long as people are still coming in to us; as long as - 10 years on - we are still RELEVANT - I am happy enough.

We are conscious not to skimp on quality and so we have been getting through a fair few samples with a view to finding wines that are good quality and can sell at around a tenner. We have dispatched many samples to the neighbours or the drain, but we have found some interesting ones - there will be more to follow:

Poggerissi Rosso di Toscana - a great value, 100% Sangiovese from Rufina, this is cracking stuff. Lots of bitter cherry fruit, decent body and great with a bowl of pasta midweek. €10

Domaine Grauzan Sauvignon Blanc - crisp, fresh, dry and fruity. Half the price of Sancerre, more mellow and cheaper than Marlborough - great house wine crowd pleaser - €10

Simone Joseph Syrah/Grenache - another great crowd-pleaser - juicy, fruity but with enough structure to keep everything in check. Think Cotes du Rhone, but €4 cheaper - €9.

Simone Joseph Chardonnay - unoaked, from South of France. Drop that nasty, neutral Macon Lugny right now and get a decent drop in your glass - €11

REdfin Shiraz/Grenache (Oz) - want something smooth that everyone will like without having to think about it too much? Try this for €10 or 2 for €18

Los Prados Chenin / Semillon (Argentina) - nice blend from a good producer - crisp and fresh with plenty of fruit. Very gluggable €10 or 2 for €18

Araldica Barbera d'Asti - value from Piedmont? Yes it can be done - juicy, light and fruity - perfect with spag bol on a wed night. €11.

Campo de Borja Joven Seleccion - Garnacha - soft, ripe, smooth and fruity. The kind of wine that Spain does brilliantly - great at €11.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Booterstown is closed

I regret to relate that our sister operation in Booterstown has closed down, as of last weekend.

Our shop in Dalkey and our wholesale operation are, of course, still alive and well and we look forward to offering our customers even higher levels of value and service in the coming year.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Roederer Tasting the other night

Speaking of anti-cyclical planning, we battled against the zeitgeist (or shitegeist as David McWilliams now calls it) by having a great Louis Roederer tasting the other night, presented with characteristic panache by Charles Searson (thanks again Charles). The wines tasted were:

Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV - this is one of my favourite NV champagnes - very stylish, easy-drinking style with plenty of depth and concentration.

Louis Roederer Blanc de Blancs 2000 - crisp, fresh on the palate but broadens out on the finish. Loads of fruit, would be a very good food wine.

Louis Roederer Rose 2003 - strawberries and raspberries on the nose, quite muted. Fruit explodes on the palate, suave and delicious. Put away for a few years.

Cristal 2002 - one of the great vintages of this great champagne. This is all about elegance, concentration and complexity. Still a baby, but amazing.

Louis Roederer Vintage 1996 - another great vintage, this was drinking beautifully. Secondary notes were prevalent and enhanced the complexity - beautifully balanced, elegant and concentrated.

A great tasting.

Virtuous circle or virtual circus?

Just a small interjection. I know it's not attractive (!) but I had a thought last night as I was lying awake worrying about the bank recapitalisation. There was an economist on the radio a few weeks ago talking about how the government should be investing in the economy, building roads and repairing schools etc. This creates jobs, resulting in tax revenue, feeding the government coffers, resulting in more funds available for investment and so on, creating what he called a virtuous circle.

Sometimes the simple things do work - is there any chance that Tweedledum and Tweedledumber were listening to this guy, but heard him incorrectly? They then put together a plan (ha!) to turn the country into a virtual circus.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Value for money

We have our heads wrecked looking for cheaper wines at the moment as the theme of 2009 is (quite rightly) value for money. We have always tried to offer value for money at every price level, by which I mean that, regardless of how much a bottle costs, you will be happy with the quality inside the bottle. I believe there should be a clear line of price/quality relationship, whereby if the price is higher, quality is as well. As a result of this, we always try every wine before we stock it as we have to be able to look the customer in the eye and say it's worth it.

At the moment, our range starts at €9 (except for special offers) and it is genuinely hard to find good, drinkable wines for less. We have just tried 12 wines which would sell for under €10 and will stock 3; the others we could not honestly stand over.

The ones we import ourselves are even trickier because we know if the wine doesn't work, we will end up having to drink it ourselves. Now that really focusses the mind!

Any suggestions would be welcome...

Monday, February 2, 2009

2004 Burgundy reds and that funny taste

Has anybody else noted a weird "green taste" lurking in the background of red Burgundies from the 2004 vintage? I have found this exact same taste almost scattered at random, finding it in some wines from certain producers, but not their other wines; from some appellations, but not others; from some producers and not others. Its randomness leads me to think it is not a ripeness thing or it would be more pervasive. Is it a yeast issue? I don't know, the only answer I have got is a gallic shrug of the shoulders and mumblings about "gout du millesime".....

One wine that doesn't have it is the Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru "Les Bondues" from Darviot Perrin. Didier Darviot is a meticulous producer, based in Monthelie who is best known for his whites, with excellent holdings in Chassagne Montrachet and Meursault. His wines are always very correct and well made, reflecting their origins perfectly and with some style. His reds are harder to sell, in fact when we are ordering from him, he makes us buy 40% reds, even though we would probably prefer about 20% red - this is the kind of stuff you can only get away with in Burgundy. Anyway, the 2004 Chassagne Premier Cru is medium bodied, with a lovely nose of raspberries and ripe red fruits. Silky texture, lovely purity of fruit and long finish - very classy stuff. The 05 is, of course, even better, but for the long haul.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Is anybody else fed up of Marlborough Sauv Blanc?

I was at the New Zealand wine fair last week and there was a table of Sauvignon BLancs designed to show you the differences between various parts of Marlborough. Well, if there were differences, they were too subtle for my barbarian palate. I'm fed up of them all at this stage - does anybody out there have any interesting ones? Something that isn't the usual glass of pungenttropicalgrassyblahblah? No oaked suggestions, please, they are really pointless.

While I am giving out about New zealand wines, I heard the other day that about 150,000 cases of New Zealand wine were sold in Ireland. I thought that was pretty good until I heard that Oyster Bay Sauvignon Bland made up 90,000 of those cases. How depressing is that? The hilarious thing is that I'm sure it sells so well because it reminds people of Cloudy Bay....

But don't worry, I still love Felton Road (Central Otago, not a Sauvignon in sight) and Muddy Water (Waipara, amazing Riesling).

Monday, January 26, 2009

Bin End Wines

Our ridiculously good bin-end sale continues, but the stuff is running out. Here are a couple that I tried last week.

Little James Basket Press (reduced from €13 to €8)
This is a cuvee made by Chateau de Saint Cosme, top Gigondas producer, a blend of 90% Grenache and 10% Merlot - hence it's Vin de Table designation. It's like a good Cotes du Rhone - soft, fruity, versatile with everything in the right place. If you can live with the quirky label, it's a total steal at this price for a good mid-week option. Bottle quantities only left.

Saint Cosme Cotes du Rhone Blanc 2006 (reduced from €18 to €9)
White CdR is always a difficult sell, but this wine is a really good example of what white wines from this region can offer. Broad on the palate with loads of stonefruit flavours - peach, apricot, etc. Acidity could be a bit fresher, but overall this wine makes a big impact and at this price cannot be lft behind. A couple of cases left.

St. Michael Eppan Riesling Montiggl 2006 (reduced from €17 to €10)
another labour of love that has proven hard to sell, this wine is fantastic, fresh, crisp, bone dry, impeccable fresh pure fruit. Brilliant Riesling, have taken a case for myself.

Boroli Langhe 2004 (reduced from €17 to €9)
A blend of Nebbiolo, Barbera nad Merlot, this has always been a fantastic introduction to wines from Piedmont - all the character and intrigue of the Piedmontese varieties, softened by the Merlot which helps to make a soft, round very-easy to drink wine. Good few cases left.

More reports as I drink them - still trying to keep my consumption reasonable!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Some wines

Corvo 2007 - the long-established cheap and cheerful staple from Sicily, currently on offer in the shop at 2 for 16 euro. Lightish, simple and fruity, an acceptable bottle at this price and arguably nice enough with a bowl of pasta.

Is Argiolas Vermentino 2007 - a step up from the Costamolino. Nice floral nose, fresh, crisp, fruity style with a salty finish. Reminds me of a sunny day on a beach in Wexford.

Pesquera 2005 - this was tightly sprung when opened first, so I decanted it and we had it with lamb. Full-bodied, rich, spicy, leathery, really delicious and with a bright future ahead of it. WE had the 2001 recently and it was just drinking nicely, so I will come back to this one in a few years time.

Bin End Sale on now

Savings of upto 30% can be had now on wines as the bin end sale starts. These are genuine savings on good wines, but we have to make room for new stuff coming in over the next few weeks. It varies from wines we have a a fair amount of to wines where we just have a few bottles left on the shelf. well worth a look....

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

10th Birthday this year!

It's hard to believe it, but On the Grapevine is 10 years old this year. We opened the doors for the first time on St. Patrick's Day 1999. We first met John, our landlord, in early December 1998 with the crazy idea of opening a wine shop in this new unit he had just built as part of a mixed development off the main street in Dalkey. Dalkey is a funny place in terms of what works and what doesn't and he wanted to make sure that whatever went in was there for the long haul. So, we met him, presented our plan and he liked the idea. Then we went to the bank, back when they were lending money to people and they gave us the green light as well. All of a sudden, from having a pipe dream, we were in the position where we could do this thing if we had the courage. It was one of those things where you would spend your life saying "What if....?" if you DIDN't do it, so really we had no option but to try it out.

We were both in reasonably well-paid jobs, both very busy lives. We were just married, no children, starting out in life. We had no experience in the wine trade and, although we both liked and were interested in wine, we really knew very little about the world of wine. So, it was a leap in the dark, to say the least. But we did leap - Pam gave up her job in Feb 99 and set about getting the shop open. I stayed on in my job for the first 6 months just in case...

More about history another day.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Back from Portugal

Just spent a week in the Algarve and tried my best to drink interesting stuff. However, the bar where we were staying was doing happy hour every night at 6pm and they had decent Guinness so it was a pint with dinner followed by a couple of glasses of something half decent from the supermarket at home after the kids had gone to bed.

The best in terms of price / quality we found was Don Rafael by Mouchao, which I think is the entry level one from this really good producer, one of the best in Portugal (in my limited knowledge). It was medium bodied with really nice fruit and balance, very drinkable stuff. WE also had a bottle of Mouchao 2003 the one night we went out for dinner and this was really good - very elegant for such a big wine and everything in harmony. Very nice stuff indeed. It costs about €35 a bottle here, I think. (I saw it for €49 in Faro airport). I must ring the lads in Wicklow Wine to see what the story is....

Any cheap bottles we tried (less than €4) were pretty poor, not surprisingly. Worst of all was some sparkling wine we bought in Aldi (the proper supermarket was closed). Don't know how much it was, but it was undrinkable. Nice choc chip cookies, though, in fairness.