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.