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!