Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Opening Hours

We are on the final run-in now, so here are our opening hours over the festive season....

WEDNESESDAY 21st                      11AM – 8PM
 THURSDAY 22nd                              11AM – 8PM
 FRIDAY 23RD                                    11AM – 8PM
 CHRISTMAS EVE                            10AM – 5PM
 CHRISTMAS DAY                           CLOSED
 ST. STEPHEN’S DAY                      CLOSED
 TUESDAY 27TH                                 CLOSED       
 WEDNESDAY 28TH                          11AM – 7PM
 THURSDAY 29TH                              11AM – 7PM
FRIDAY 30TH                                     11AM - 7PM
 NEW YEAR’S EVE                          11AM – 5PM



Thursday, December 1, 2011

Don't we look festive?

And so it starts again...despite the impending fourth austerity budget which will be unveiled over not one, but TWO days next week and despite the fact that even this bad news could be rendered meaningless in the doomsday scenario of the collapse of the euro and despite the fact that I am a grumpy pessimist at the best of times...despite all this I still have a good feeling about this Christmas....

We have a bit of corporate stuff going on earlier than usual, we have plenty of good wines in stock, Mrs Grapevine is mad busy with the hampers, I just feel we are in reasonable shape.

Also, now that I have bought a 25kg bag of rock salt, we know it is not going to snow for about 10 years, so we won't have the snow-induced collapse in business that caught almost everybody out last year.

In the meantime, we are having our Christmas Wine Club Get-Together next Wednesday night in Ouzo's - great food, great wines, great craic & great value - get your place booked!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Wine Fair next Thursday 10th November

Wine Fair 2011

Our Annual Wine Fair takes place this year on Thursday, November 10th from 6pm to 9pm in Dalkey Town Hall (Heritage Centre).

This is always a great night and is a good opportunity to taste over 100 wines from all over the world and at all prices to see what you like and don't like. There will be great offers on the night, Pam will be there with hamper and gift ideas and Sheridans are supplying some cheese to wash down all that wine!

So come along, tickets are only €10, make a night of it and go for a meal or a pint in one of Dalkey's many hostelries.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The truth is in there....

Kilkenny purveyors of all things yummy, Le Caveau, put on a very interesting tasting last week with Dario Poddana from London merchants, Les Caves de Pyrene to talk about and taste a range of natural wines. This is a hot topic in the wine world at the moment and I have to admit I know generally what the idea is, but my knowledge in this area is sadly lacking. So I was keen to learn and taste some natural wines and see what the fuss is about.

So, what are natural wines? I like to think of it as three steps:

1. Organic Wine - made from organically grown grapes
2. Biodynamic wine - organic with bells on - follow the lunar cycle, bury cowhorns in the ground and lots of other dodgy sounding stuff
3. Natural wines - some or all of 1 and 2 but also brings this thinking into the cellar, so we are talking minimal intervention, natural yeasts, no filtering, little or no sulphur etc etc

I'm not sure organic makes much difference and I don't really fully understand biodynamics, but I have to admit that producers who use these methods very often produce very nice wines. So, it does seem to work. Does it work because it creates extra work and all that extra love and attention shows through in the wines? I'm inclined to think this is a factor.

But all I'm really interested in is what is in the bottle - this is where the truth lies. So what were they like?

Prosecco Coste Piane
Made in the champenois method and without filtering, so all the dead yeast etc gathers at the bottom of the bottle, which explained why my sample was slightly cloudy. Funny stories about the sediment is the best part didn't convince me as to how we would explain that as we poured it for a customer. It tasted quite nice, but not any better than a regular good prosecco. Unconvinced.

2010 Vouvray Sec La Dilettante, Breton €19
Very funky and animal nose, I didn't like this at all and I thought it didn't taste anything like Vouvray - I would have returned it as faulty, but I was informed this is what it is supposed to be like.

2010 Montlouis Minerale +, SAumon €19
Now this was delicious, wild and aromatic, but clean. Great intensity of fruit and length. Really good, but it tasted like a wine that was about 4-5 years old, quite evolved. Wouldn't hang around...

2010 Cotes du Rhone, Renaud €19
Amazing rich wine with nice acidity which holds it together. As usual with white Cotes du Rhones, I like it, but I don't think I could sell it. Very good wine.

2009 Morgon Cote du Puy, Foillard €28
Very nice, complex nose, slightly funky but clean. Palate disappointed slightly, but still very nice wine with decent weight of fruit. Very classy, but twice the price of what Morgon is supposed to be.

Gran Cerdo Tempranillo €12.50
Very jumpy Tempranillo, really fruity style - very good, actually. I liked this very much.

2010 Ribeira Sacra Adega Cachin €18
This is too funky for me I'm afraid, I just don't get it. Again, I would return this as faulty.

2008 Touraine "In Cot we Trust" Puzelat €20
This was billed as extreme, even by natural wines standards, but it was my favourite red so far. Crunchy red fruit, crisp acidity and nice balance and freshness - I just thought it was a nice Loire red.

2008 Malbec Familia Cecchin €17.50
Nice Malbec, but again tasted older than it was - not sure it would last much longer. Would prefer Catena at the same price....

2009 Vino di Anna, Sicilia €20
From Mount Etna, this was a light aromatic wine that was perfectly pleasant, juicy simple red wine. Well made and good.

2008 Rosso di Montalcino Pobitzer €30
Really nice rich wine, very nice fruit and balance. Soft tannins which made me think it was quite atypical for Montalcino. Still, nice wine.

Overall, it was a fascinating tasting and kudos to Pascal and Le Caveau for putting it on and bringing such interesting wines to the Irish market. In a time when the market is more and more dominated by industrial gloop sold on promotion in the supermarkets, the more interesting wines we can choose from the better.

From my own point of view, I am still a bit of a sceptic. We have always focussed on the juice first and foremost - our line of thinking is as follows:

Is it good?
Is it value for money?
Can we sell it (do people want it?)
It is typical - does it reflect its origin/grape variety?
Are the people nice?
Is it organic/biodynamic/natural?

And of course the question that overshadows all of the above questions is: Can we afford it?!!

But the point I am making is that organic etc is taken as a bonus rather than a reason to buy. We always try to keep the focus on what is in the bottle.

The truth is in there.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Parking Angels

This correspondent has been a frequent critic of the parking regime that exits in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County for a while now - let's just say I am "known" to the authorities on this issue.

As I have said many times before, I think Pay and Display parking is a necessary and potentially positive part of traffic management in towns such as Dalkey with limited parking and many people who commute into Dublin for work. However, the enforcement leaves a lot to be desired. Overzealous is an understatement - I think vindictive is closer to the mark. We are all losing business as customers are driven out of the town by sociopathic parking ticket demons. At the same time, the council is STILL rezoning yet more land around the M50 for more out of town shopping centres, while there are over 30 retail units in Dun Laoghaire lying empty. Take a walk down Dun Laoghaire main street if your life is missing a bit of grim depression - charity shops, pound shops and bookies compete with empty shops for your attention.

Anyway, Ouzos restaurant has taken a great new initiative to try and combat the parking demons. They are sending people out on the streets in Blackrock and, if your ticket is nearly expired, they will top it up with 50c with a notice like the one above on your windscreen. So you come back to your car and, instead of the usual parking ticket, you find the parking angel has topped up your parking for you. Leaving you to spend the €40 you have  saved in a local business instead. Neat, huh?

Something that business associations all over the country could take note of as I know we are not on our own with hyperactive traffic wardens all over the country annoying people...

Friday, October 21, 2011

€10 off Felton Road Pinot this weekend

Rugby World Cup Offer (will this thing ever end?)
Never one to shy away from flogging a dead horse, we have one last offer this weekend. It is simple, but beautifully crafted. The offer, I mean. The wine is complex and beautifully crafted…

€10 off Felton Road Pinot Noir – reduced from €45 down to €35 – this weekend only.

Is it an amazing wine? Yes
Is it worth €45? Yes
Do you deserve a bottle? Yes
Would you be mad not to buy a bottle at this price? Yes
Is it open for tasting this weekend? Yes

That’s 5 yesses in a row, I don’t get that very often.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Flying Bordeaux visit

I really don't get to Bordeaux often enough, it was a few years since I had been and we had a reminder last weekend of just what a wonderful city it is. It began as a plan to just have a weekend away, with no wine visits or tastings lined up - we just wanted to enjoy the city as tourists.

Of course, it would be a shame not to visit Chateau Mangot while we were there, so we set up a quick visit out in Saint Emilion and then, our friends who joined us for the weekend wanted to see some of the splendour of the left bank, so we set up an appointment in Chateau Lynch Bages for the afternoon.

On the Friday evening, we arrived at our cheap and cheerful hotel in pleasant 23 degree sunshine. The girls went to see a few shops, Eoin and myself had abeer and then we bought a bottle of Gosset Grande Reserve to have in the room while getting ready. It was delicious - plastic glasses and all!

We then went out to Bar a Vins - a must-visit for all wine-focussed people. In a beautiful building owend by the CIVB, this place offers a showcase for the wines of Bordeaux. Great wines by the glass from €2 per glass - it is amazing value and great atmosphere - not helped by the rude staff, but that was a running theme of the weekend....

Our visit to Chateau Mangot in beautiful Saint Emilion was great with the ebullient Yann in great form showing us the winery and some of their 60 hectares (split between Saint Emilion grand Cru and Cotes de Castillon).
After tasting various vintages of Chateau La Brande, Chateau Mangot and their upper cuvees (the 09s are amazing), we proceeded to a lovely lunch outside in Castillon. We then had a quick scoot across to the Medoc where we arrived bang on time for our appointment in Lynch Bages. A very smooth operation with 400,000 bottles made each year, this is a really nice place to visit. In fairness to the Cazes family, they have done a great job investing money in the village and doing a really classy yet understated job of their own.

Dinner in a local brasserie and a few drinks on the Place Saint Pierre rounded off a great day. I was awoken the next morning to get my Twitter account hacked - I wasn't the only one - but this really was a pain to try and sort out on my phone from Bordeaux...once again apologies to anyone who received a dodgy message from me!

Overall, Bordeaux is a beautiful and enjoyable city to visit - a great mix of fine wine, beautiful architecture, great food and nice weather - I would highly recommend it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rugby World Cup Offer #4 - 20% off French Wine in On the Grapevine

Ross O'Carroll-Kelly tweeted last week that the world may have ended last week, but the Rugby World Cup goes on and so this Saturday, we offer 20% off all French wine for one day only.

Just in case they get turfed out.

While my customers run riot availing of great bargains on Saturday, I will be in Bordeaux visiting Chateau Mangot in Saint Emilion and Chateau Lynch Bages in Pauillac - will give a full lowdown next week....

Saturday, October 8, 2011

20% off all White wine today

The World Cup dream is over but the deal lives on - 20% off all white wine today only in the shop.

Look out for our French offer next weekend.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Cymru on Ireland - Stupid Rugby Offer #3

These early morning starts are really ruining my weekend lie-ins (ha!) these days, but here we are in the quarter final of the World Cup, faced with an impressive-looking Wales team. I have always had a problematic relationship with Wales because, as a child in Wexford, I had to put up with the Welsh version of Channel 4 – S4C. So while the rest of you were enjoying edgy programming and interesting documentaries, we had to put up with Ivor the Engine re-runs. In Welsh.

Also, all that singing kind of annoys me.

Anyway, how you fashion a wine offer for a country that doesn’t make wine? I put this to some of the best marketing minds in the country – Pam, Carol and my friend, Michael - and we have decided to forget geography and go by the colour of the jerseys – red and, er, green. The offer is as follows:

If Ireland win : 20% off all RED Wine

If Wales win : 20% off all WHITE Wine

If Ireland win by more than 15 points (not going to happen, so I’m told) : 20% off ALL WINE

The offer is for ONE DAY ONLY, SATURDAY, OCT 8th. No other discounts apply, etc etc….
Something for everyone – see you on Saturday. COME ON IRELAND!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rugby World Cup Stupid Offer No. 2 - Italy

While having a great laugh at my expense and availing of my hasty 30% discount on all Australian wine after I got it spectacularly wrong on my prediction for the Australian match, many customers were already looking forward to the deal on the Italian match, so here it is:

10% of all Italian wine on Saturday and Sunday no matter what happens.

20% off Italian wine if we win on Sunday - remember we close at 6pm on Sunday!

If we beat the Paddy Power handicap and beat Italy by 12 points or more, the discount is increased to 30% on
Sunday only!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Grape Gripes doesn't put the boot in

A bunch of grape gripes was the name of an article in today's Irish times by Fiona Reddan. It set out to address a major gripe of all independent off-licences and wine shops - namely the so-called wine "promotions" now dominating the wine trade in Ireland.

Every week the newspapers are covered in ads and pullouts for all the major multiples advertising this weeks special offers. Top of the list is nearly always booze - beer, spirits and wine lead the advertising blitz every week. How that fits in with the trade's supposed self-regulation in relation to "sensible drinking" is a blog for another day, but the article today addresses what has always been my concern - are these promotions for real or do they artificially increase the price before then cutting it to half price - the price that truly reflects the quality of the wine on offer?? 

There are, no doubt, some genuine offers - Taittinger and Mount Pleasant are two that spring to mind. Who now would pay €50 for a bottle of Taittinger when it is on Tesco periodically at €25 - less than the wholesale cost from Taittinger's Irish agent? Who would pay €100 in a restaurant...? However, there are also a large amount of dubious-looking offers that make up the bulk of the sales. Someone told me last week that a Tesco manager said that 88% of his wine sales come from the 12-foot section which houses his promo wines. The rest of his wine section was just wallpaper. 

However, in most cases, the wines on promotion are unknown wines, only seen on shelves while on promotion. Are we really to believe that Chateau Neverheardofit Bordeaux Superieur was ever worth €19.99 and thus is an unmissable bargain at €9.99? Or is the supermarket making their normal margin at €9.99 and are using the €19.99 as a sales trick?

These are the questions the article asked, but never really answered. They got Lar Veale  of www.sourgrapes.ie fame and Maureen O'Hara who used to work for Findlaters back when it was a proper wine importer before getting sucked into first Grants and then the even worse Woodford Bourne and they gave their opinion on the wines which generally backed up our suspicions that these wines are generally not worth the supposed full price. 

Somehow, however, we never really got to the crux of the matter - are the multiples conning their customers in many cases with their wine promos? Is it impossible to answer this question or are we not digging deep enough? I suspect the Irish Times would regard is a foolhardy to dig too deep into the darker recesses of major advertisers....

The article in today's paper certainly raised more questions than answers, but at least it asked the question - its a start! 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

20% - or maybe 30% - off Australian wine this Saturday

I got up last Saturday AND Sunday morning (got a bit mixed up) at 7am to see the Ireland v USA in the Rugby World Cup, only to witness another turgid performance by Ireland at this particular competition. What is it about Ireland and Rugby World Cups? Are the other teams not English enough??  

In order to instil a bit of excitement, we are doing 20% OFF ALL AUSTRALIAN WINE this Saturday in the shop for one day only!

However, if Ireland win, we will do 10% off EVERYTHING and another 10% of the Aussie stuff to total a loss-making 30% discount on Australian wine.

It will surprise some of you to know that, despite this sudden rush of blood to the head, I will still be shouting for Ireland!

So, if Australia win, we still do 20% off Australian wine.
If Ireland win, we will do 30% off Australian wine and 10% off everything else – is that complicated enough?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Has Retail Changed Forever?

If you play your cards right in our shop, you can come in, get a free tasting of wine, buy a bottle on promotion at, say, €8, get a further 5% discount if you have a Dalkey Loyalty card and get a stamp on the high-tech-12-stamps-and-you-get-a-free-bottle On the Grapevine card.

And we would be would be very happy to see you!

We, like everyone else, has to keep working hard to get customers and keep customers and I have no problem with that. The question that has been rattling around in my cranium, though, is the question of value. Or, to be more specific, the perception of value.

I have spoken at tedious length about the bogus promotions in supermarkets where many (not all, but many) wines are discounted down to half price. The problem is, the discounted price is the true value of the wine and not the "normal RRP", at which the same wine never sells and, in many cases, is not even offered for sale. In the UK, over 80% of wine is sold on promotion  - anyone got stats on Ireland?

The other phenomenon are the Citydeals/Megadeals/Citymegasuperdeals and whatever you are having yourself. Now, you can think what you like about these, but they are growing exponentially at the moment in a retail environment which has about as much life as the average dodo. Some sectors seem to suit these deals particularly well. Personally, my skin is red raw from too many microdermabrasions, the enamel has been all but stripped from my teeth after so many teeth-whitening treatments and if I have any more eyelash extensions, I could be turned upside down to sweep the floor!

If you have some young wan standing around doing nothing when she could be giving someone a half-price Indian head massage in the hope that you will come back for a second one, I can see it makes sense. If you are lying on a beach in the Algarve and your hotel is being managed by NAMA and the only way to fill rooms is to do a half price deal, then it can be an attractive way of drumming up business.

From the punters point of view, you are getting a great deal, so why not? As I said, this sector is growing hugely and I'm all for it. What it does, though, is reinforce the habit of only buying stuff half price. People don't differentiate between a high margin service industry with lots of capacity available and just buying something in a shop. What do you mean you bought a bottle of wine at its full price? I got a weekend away in the Quality Hotel in Tullamore and I only paid half price!!

Am I being hopelessly naive and old-fashioned to think we can buy a nice product, apply a modest margin and sell it at a fair price? Are those days over?

Friday, September 2, 2011

September News

September Offers
Gregoris Soave Classico – RRP €13 – now €10
Many of you are already familiar with the excellent Pinot Grigio from Antonio Fattori, under the Gregoris label. Well, we have tasted his Soave a lot over the years and finally this year, we feel it is as good as its sister Pinot Grigio. Clean, fresh fruit, medium-bodied, soft but nicely balanced, this is excellent wine. Unfortunately, he sent it to us in the wrong bottle (it should be in a Burgundy shaped bottle), so we need to sell this wine before we ship the wine in its correct packaging. (The bottle is fine, but it looks too much like the Pinot Grigio). Come and taste and you won’t get a better white at this price.
Domaine La Prade Sauvignon Blanc – RRP €10 – now €8
Domaine La Prade make an excellent range of well-made varietal wines in the South of France. The Sauvignon Blanc has great freshness, crisp acidity and typical zingy, grassy Sauvignon fruit that has made this variety such a hit all over the world. Terrific stuff at a tenner, complete steal at this price.
Domaine La Prade Merlot – RRP €10 – now €8
Quite full-bodied, with round, plummy fruit, soft tannins and a nice finish. Perfect house wine and great value.
Contrade del Falco, Puglia – RRP €17 – now €14
Back by popular demand, this is a terrific blend of Negroamaro and Malvasia from the ‘heel’ of Italy. Full-bodied, voluptuous, smooth and harmonious, dark, brooding fruit and a long finish.
Wine Course
We would like to start a new wine course this September, so, if you would like to brush up on your wine tasting skills from all over the world or if you would just like an excuse for mid-week drinking, the call Carol on 01 2353054 to book your place. The attached doc has all the details….
Spanish Wine Tasting
We are delighted to have all these interesting new businesses open in Dalkey and we would like to support one of them by hosting a Spanish Wine tasting in the Dalkey Dispensary on Tuesday, September 20th at 7.30pm. Antonio from specialist Spanish wine importer Vinostito will be along to taste some of the great new wines coming out of Spain. We might even wangle a tapas or two out of the Dispensary. Cost will be €20 per head.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sheridans Cheese and Wine Tasting this weekend

Just for the hell of it, we are cracking open some new wines and some Sheridans cheese in the shop this weekend to have a big tasting...

Brie, Bleu d'Auvergne, Comte will be among the cheeses.

Bussola Valpolicella TB, Chateau La Tonnelle, One Tree Sauvignon Blanc will be among the wines.

All day Friday and Saturday - spread the word and call in!

Monday, August 8, 2011

My licence saga

When we opened in 1999, there weren't that many shops only selling wine and there wasn't a licence available for weird shops like ours, so we were given a Wine "On" Licence which covered us to sell wine on or off the premises. We toddled along happily with this licence until this year when we were told that we had to apply for the new Wine Retailer's Off Licence.

The procedure to apply for this new licence means getting court approval. Between an ad in the paper, solicitor's fees and barristers fees we will be down over €2,000 - just to be able to apply for the licence in September!

We were in court until 3pm, listening to everyone else's tedious business. When my turn came, I had to take the stand, swear on the bible and all the rest of it, answer a few cursory questions about the business and the the judge sighed, turned to me and said "Why do the licencing people insist on making everyone's life so difficult?" And that was it.

I know the revenue had to tighten up on wine licences, but surely, for those of us who have to migrate from one licence to another, a simpler and cheaper way to do it should be made available? There will be more than us who will have to make the change, and an extra 2k is hard to find these days.

More red tape, more expense, more making life difficult for small business. As an aside, there has been a traffic warden all day on our near-empty street all day today.

Maybe the council should just start running shuttle buses to Tesco and be done with it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

August deals from On the Grapevine

On the Grapevine August Offers

Mixed Case Special – 3 bottles each of the wines below, only €100 –
that’s a saving of 27% or €38!

Lanzos White – Sauvignon / Viura – Was €11, now €9
This is really well-made, zesty white from
the Rueda region of Spain. Local grape
variety Viura is blended with the betterknown
Sauvignon Blanc to give a fresh,
fruity white that is great on its own or with
lightish food.

Lanzos Red – Tempranillo – Was €11, now €9
This is made in Toro where Tempranillo is
given the slightly unimaginative name of
Tinta de Toro. What you get is a mediumbodied,
gutsy, slightly spicy, slightly
leathery red, bursting with red berry fruits.
Soft and easy drinking and a great allrounder
at a great price.

Domaine de Cabrol Picpoul de Pinet 2010 – was €12, now €10
Want a crisp, fresh summery white? Step back
from the Pinot Grigio, put down that New
Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and try this for real
refreshment. From the shores of the
Mediterranean, this is crisp and fresh with
lovely citrus tang and the nice feeling of
knowing you are drinking a real wine with
character. One of the Languedoc’s hidden

Lombeline Gamay 2009 – Loire Valley – was €12 now €9
2009 was an exceptional year in Loire valley for the red
and the wines in particular show amazing depth. The
bouquet of this Gamay is pure cherry and strawberries with
a hint of spices. On the palate there is a superb, harmonious
smoothness, tender structure with lovely minerality. Classic
summery wine, serve it a little bit chilled .Delicious now
with cold meat.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Barrel Bargain - half price wine! (nearly)

We have just changed the red wine in our barrel and put in Chateau Terre Forte Cotes du Rhone which we got at a good price. Just tried it and it is delicious - classic Cotes du Rhone nose, smooth with bright red berry fruit.

A bottle of this wine normally costs €14 or €18.60 per litre. We are selling it at the usual barrel price of €10 per litre or €5 per half litre.

Get it while you can!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

July Offers (for the heatwave!)

Real Deals on Real Wine for July

We have read a medium term forecast predicting a heatwave in the second half of July, so in the spirit of positive thinking (also called by some here at OTG HQ as baseless optimism), we are focussing on some nice summer wines for the month ahead.

Le Scapitozze Bianco – RRP €11 -  now €9
A blend of trebbiano with a splash of chardonnay – easy, fruity summery white.

Le Scapitozze Rosso – RRP €11 - now €9
100% Sangiovese – but with no harsh edges - soft, fruity, easy-drinking. Great value.

A beautiful, bottle, a beautiful colour, a beautiful wine and now at a beautiful price. The nicest Rose you will get this summer. Close your eyes and think of the Cote d'Azur....strawberries and cream, fresh and just fruity enough. Food, no food, it doesn't matter - this stuff just disappears.

Pasqua Passimento – RRP €17 - now  €13
Just in case it remains cool.....we have done this before, but it is too good not to repeat. Smooth, chocolatey, full-bodied hearty red from the Veneto. It never gets too hot in Ireland does it...?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Flash Sale - 20% off EVERYTHING for 2 days only

Ok, we're going with this again - here's the deal:

  • 20% off everything in the shop
  • 2 days only - Friday 24th and Saturday 25th
  • no other deals, discounts, loyalty cards etc apply
  • we go back to normal on Sunday
So, call in, stock up and get a great deal while it's going!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Thinking outside the barrel...

In our constant drive to offer value for money without compromising on quality, we have just started selling wine direct from barrels. The idea is that you fill the bottle direct from the barrel in the shop into our 1 litre or 1/2 litre bottles.
You can buy the tried and trusted Domaine Grauzan Merlot or Chardonnay for €10 per litre instead of €10/€11 per 750ml bottle - a saving of 25%!
Buy a bottle for €3 (1ltr) or €2(500ml) and the just bring it back for a refill and always have your house wine available in a unique and affordable way.
It has been flying out in the shop on its first weekend, the barrels look great and people like the wine, get a kick out of the concept and appreciate the value!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Castellroig Winemakers Dinners

Castellroig Dinner – Beaufield Mews, Wednesday June 15th at 7.30pm
We have recently started working with this really good producer based in the hills outside Barcelona. They are rightly famous in Spain and internationally as a producer of excellent cava, but they also make a delicious range of red and white wines. Owner and winemaker, Marcel and his colleague Ricard are coming to Dublin to introduce the range of wines on Wednesday, June 15th.
Our good friends in Beaufield Mews will be showcasing their love of all things Catalan with a menu designed to go with these great wines.
Cava kicks off at 7.30 pm and the cost is €50 per person including all food and wine on the night.
This will be a great night, so call us on 01 2353054 to book your place.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Real Wine Deals for May

It is quite possible that consumers these days are becoming more and more bewildered by the range of wine offers available these days - we are becoming more and more driven by promotions as the multiples race to find who can sell the cheapest wine at the biggest discount, with scant regard to quality. They are all completely giving the two fingers to the government in terms of self-regulating the promotion of alcohol; all advertisements, newspaper pullouts etc are led by screaming ads for wine, beer and spirits. 

We like to do things differently here at On the Grapevine, and, while we are offering deals and good value for money - we are not offering wines that are no good and we don't do bogus half-price offers. The deals are simple - take proper wine that is already a proven success at its full retail price and discount it by about 20-25% for a month, after which it returns to its normal price. The wines are good, the savings are real, smoke and mirrors are left unused.

With this in mind - here are the deals for May:

Chateau Miaudoux Bergerac Sec 2010 - Was €12, now €10
The label is the subject of some debate the at OTG HQ, but there is no disagreement on the wine. Mainly Sauvignon Blanc, with some Semillon and a dash of Muscadelle, this is fresh, crisp and fruity, bone dry with nice body and texture. Organic and delicious and, if you don't like the label, turn the bottle around.

St. Michael Eppan Pinot Grigio 2010 - Was €17.50, now €14
If you want real wine, it doesn't get much more authentic than this delicious pure, fresh Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige heading up toward the Alps in Northern Italy. Aromatic, crisp, dry with a long, mineral finish, this is miles away from your average Pinot Grigio (a grape which is being sadly undermined by the multitude of dodgy industrial swill being sold thus labelled). A very nice drink at the normal price - a total BARGAIN at this price.

Pasqua Passimento was €17, now €13
A rich spicy red from the Veneto, this is made by part-drying the grapes to increase concentration and intensity and results in a Ripasso-style wine that is smooth and delicious. Back by popular demand!

Perez Cruz Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva was €12, now €9.50
This wine got a 4-star rating by Decanter magazine, and it is a very decent wine indeed. Full-bodied and fruity, smooth and rich. Great value.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Vinitaly 2011

Apologies about the delay in getting this out there, real life has been getting in the way.

Anyway, we had a great trip to Vinitaly this year, having missed the last couple of years. We really just wanted to meet up again with our existing producers, taste the new vintages and maybe try some new stuff along the way. The first hurdle we had to overcome was to try and convince our suppliers that the sky hasn't completely fallen on our little Ireland and theat there was still business to be done. There was a lot of sympathetic nods of the head, anxious smiles, at times we felt as though we were being comforted at a funeral! The overall insecurity about Ireland as a market does impact on us as importers, however, as more and more suppliers ask for payment in advance - in most cases though, we have been working with them for so long that they know we are reasonably trustworthy! On to the wines....

St. Michael Eppan
For many years now our favourite pitstop for refreshing, aromatic, well-made whites. Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Gewurztraminer all showed terrific purity and clarity. Brilliant wines.

Cantina Terlan
We tried these just to make benchmark against St. Mick and their Pinot Bianco had got a great write up in Decanter. Nice, but not as nice as St. Mick, we thought.

San Donaci
From one end of the country to the other, we were keen to try wines from Puglia as a cheap and cheerful red from Southern Italy was on our wish list. We weren't expecting to nail it in one however, but San Donaci have just launched a new entry level range, with a red, white and rose that all show terrific fruit - perfect house wines - we are very excited about these and they are on the way. The Salice Riserva (old favourite) was great as usual and a new wine - Contrada del Falco - a Malvasia/Negroamaro blend was amazing - silky texture, smooth, fruit bomb style but elegant as well. One of our favourites of the trip and definitely coming in. Great wines, nice people.

This up and coming Slovenian outfit were on the stand of their Italian importer, so it was a good chance to taste the 2010 vintage and wangle some extra stock out of them. Wines were great, especially Sipon and Pinot Gris.

We think these aren't being brought in by O'Brien's any more, so we thought we would try them as we were passing. Rude people and bland wines meant we didn't hang around too long.

My headcold was in full flow here, so my tasting notes aren't worth a damn, but suffice it to say that Paolo and anna Rita were as charming as ever and their wines continue to grow in popularity with our customers. New label for Poggerissi will be a relief to us all!

We usually have to call out to Aldo's house to taste, but he's gone all fancy now with his stand at Vinitaly and his snazzy brochures. His wines continue to get better and better, classic Valpolicella, silky Ripasso and elegant (yes elegant!) Amarone.

La Riva dei Frati
What was supposed to be a quick tasting of prosecco turns out to be a 2 hour msaterclass of prosecco and the new DOCG regulations. FINALLY understand it, loved the DOCG frizzante need to haggle on price...

A quick Pinot Grigio tasting turned out to be a 2 hour masterclass in the white wines of Northerrn Italy - Antonio really opened our eyes with some amazing whites that we hadn't tried before including a sulphites-free Soave as part of the "Freewine" project - more on that another time. Soaves were very good. Didn't taste the Pinot Grigio in the end as we know the 2010 already and it's cracking.

Il Follo
Lovely tasting of the range from these new(to us) producers, really nice proseccos - will definitley consider some of their elegant rose...

This is where it gets scary - massive wines in every way....is it too much?

Didn't have time to taste properly, but we did taste a new Barbera at a very interesting price - will have to come back to it later in the year. Current 2004 Barolo is amazing!

Cantina del Pino
Another new (to us) producer - classic, elegant Piedmont wines. We like very much!

Villa Cafaggio
These wines are done by someone we think, so we weren't tasting with any degree of intent, we just wanted to try some Chianti Classico. These are excellent wines, great examples of Chianti.

That's it! Didn't make it to Bellavista for our usual tasting of wines we love, but can't sell!!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Easter Special - literally! Save almost 25% on Pasqua Passimento

Pasqua, as we all know (as of this morning), is the Italian word for Easter and, as it happens, we have just the thing to wash down Spring lamb or anything else you might have...

Pasqua are a large producer of mostly mediocre wines from Italy, so it was without much excitement that we tried this wine about a month ago. However, we were pleasantly surprised by the intensity and concentration of fruit and it made us take another look.

It is made from semi-dried grapes, using Corvina, Craotina (both varieties commonly used in the wines of Valpolicella) and a dash of Merlot. Partially drying the grapes concentrates the fruit and the sugars and makes for a turbo-charged version of a modern Valpolicella.

This is a different process to that used for Ripassa (where they introduce Valpolicella onto the lees of the Amarone to induce a second fermentation). This is more like a halfway house to Amarone. If you like Ripassa, you will love this.

The wine is full-bodied, with rich dark fruit, chocolate and spice, soft tannins and a nice velvetty texture.

It is delicious and on offer - normal RRP is €16.99 - we are selling a chunk of it at €12.99.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bad Science can prove anything 50% of the time

Lead researcher psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman said: "These are remarkable results. People were unable to tell expensive from inexpensive wines, and so in these times of financial hardship the message is clear - the inexpensive wines we tested tasted the same as their expensive counterparts."

This is the rather incredible conclusion from a dodgy sounding experimented reported today here.

I don't know the criteria used or how the experiment was carried out - which wines, how the people were chosen, etc. However, regardless of how the experiment was carried out, the fact that 50% of people couldn't tell the difference between the cheaper wine and the more expensive wine doesn't mean they taste the same. It just means they couldn't tell which was which. I don't think it's remarkable, I think it's entirely predictable. The only thing that is remarkable is that someone would think it is remarkable.

There are good cheap wines. There are bad ones. There are good expensive wines. There are bad ones. In general, price can be an indication of quality, but often it isn't. This is exactly why you should buy wine in an independent wine shop or offlicence or at least somewhere where they know what they are talking about. They can steer you away from the pitfalls and, if they don't, you can go back and give them a hard time.

I think its remarkable that the BBC would carry a story without the slightest bit of scrutiny between a study and the conclusions you can draw from its results.

2 + 2 = 5 and all that...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What do you think of this label?

Carol hates it, Pam hates it.

I actually think it's ok. Apart from looking like it has been designed by a flute-obsessed eight year old girl desperately trying to impress her hippy parents and disregards all the basic tenets of label design such as clarity of name, I think it works somehow.

Grapes, vine leaves, sun, errrr...flautist... - all reasonable things to have on a label. If you've got it, flaut it, as James Galway used to say.

Luckily, the wine is delicious. Very pretty colour, lifted aromas of strawberry, clean fruit, fresh acidity and very nice finish, it is one of the nicest roses I have tasted in a long time.

On offer at €11.

Oh yes, the girl's parents will be happy to note that it is organic as well.

Bruno Paillard Champagne Tasting - April 20th

Charles Searson has kindly agreed to do a tasting of their new champagne house - Bruno Paillard - for us on April 20th.

The tasting will be in Benito's in Dalkey, it will run for an hour or so featuring the 4 champagnes on offer - Brut, Rose, Blanc de Blancs and Vintage 1999.

These are elegant, high quality champagnes, Charles will be his usual entertaining and informative self, I am sure, and the entrance fee of €20 goes to charity.

Everyone's a winner.

Call us to book. 01 2353054

Monday, March 28, 2011

Cliff House Hotel - Our New Favourite Place

I was brought up in a family which prided itself on the non-celebration of birthdays. Birthday cards were regarded as a frivolous waste of money, presents a huge extravagance and birthday parties the exclusive privilege of princesses and Middle Eastern dictators. And my cousin. Like something special for your 9th birthday? OK here is a wire brush, now scrape the rust off that fence and, if you are really good, we will let you paint it next week.

Over the years, I have managed to avoid disappointment by continually adjusting my birthday expectations downwards. So it was that I approached my 42nd birthday with my hopes pitched at what I thought was just the right level, callibrated as close to zero as makes no difference. So there was considerable excitement when my wife surprised me on Friday morning with a booking for the Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore, Co. Waterford.

I had visited the Cliff House on a number of occasions on work, tasting wine with their charming and knowledgable sommelier, Anke, but I had never stayed or eaten there. It was Pam's first time, so I let her do the obligatory jawdrop on seeing the view for the first time.

Everything about the Cliff House is class. Enough has been written about Martin Kajuiter's food by more knowledgable people than me, but the meal was excellent. The rooms are fantastic, the spa seems very good (although, as usual, wasted on me), the views mesmerising, the staff unerringly polite and professional, breakfast outstanding.

Ardmore itself is a really nice place, we did a lovely 45 min cliff walk after breakfast, then went for a walk on the beach followed by coffee in the White Horses. We were there for less that 24 hours, but felt away from it all.

Yes, it is expensive, but we felt we got great value and it is well worth the money for a special experience.

We will definitely be back.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Flash Sale - 20% off EVERYTHING for 2 days only

The sunshine has gone to our heads out here in Dalkey so we are doing an off-the-cuff  FLASH SALE for 2 days only - Friday 25th and Saturday 26th March.

Buy what you like and we will knock 20% off your bill - its as simple as that!

Normality returns on Sunday....

Thursday, March 17, 2011

12 Years On

This time 12 years ago, we were furiously packing shelves on a warm and sunny St. Patrick's Day, getting ready for the opening of our humble wine shop. Looking back now, we knew very little about retail or wine or the trials and tribulations involved when you combine the two.

We knew we were interested in wine and we sort of knew that we weren't the only ones. We felt intimidated going into old-school wine shops like Searsons and Mitchells (as they were back then) and the only other wine-only specialist was the newly opened Terroirs in Donnybrook. After that, we had to look for wine in the traditional off-licences such as McCabes and Redmonds - both great sources of wine. But what we wanted was a wine-only shop that was bright and airy and approachable that offered real quality at decent prices. We wanted to open a shop for people like us.

Since then, we have tried lots of things - we had a fully functioning online shop about 7 years too early, then changed it to a brochure site and we are now relaunching it as an online shop again. We opened a second shop in Booterstown, later franchised it out, only to see it suddenly close 2 years ago, leaving ourselves and some of our suppliers out of pocket. For almost ten years now, we have been importing many of our own wines, something that is now key to the business, giving us better wines at better prices, but also benefits in terms of credibility, interest and control.

We have made great contacts and friends in the wine business and it is a source of great pleasure to us to work in a business about which we are truly passionate. We look forward to coming into work every day and that counts for a huge amount - it even compensates for the poor financial return from the wine business! We get a great kick out of getting a great wine for a relatively low price. We have tasted many of the great wines of the world, but what gives us most pleasure is finding a wine that punches above its weight, a producer that is on the up or a hidden gem that is overlooked by the rest of the wine world. This is probably what gives our list its quirky nature, but it also keeps us interested and hopefully, we impart some of that passion to our customers.

The wine trade has had its ups and downs since we started, mostly up and with a slight contraction in the last few years. It is probably a futile exercise to try and predict what will happen, but a continuing concentration of volume through the supermarkets is probably the rather depressing trend over the coming years. There is little we can do to change that on a macro level, so all we can do is keep focussing on our customers. Everybody leaves the shop happy and nobody leaves with a bad bottle - that philosophy has to continue - not just for us but for all the independent trade. I firmly believe that a healthy independent trade is key to us all not just surviving, but prospering. We have to continue to fight the good fight for interesting, proper wine and keep consumers seeking out the good juice. Let the supermarkets race to the bottom with increasingly dubious industrial plonk - we need to nurture our 10-15% (?) of the market and try to keep people interested.

When we opened the shop, we really knew nothing. We didn't realise that 12 years on, we would know even less.

Keep drinking the good stuff.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Now that's my kind of bottle

Nice wine from Niepoort, but in a proper 5 litre bottle!

We are giving away this bottle this month  - pictured here against a regular 75cl bottle. All you have to do is spend €50 on St. Patricks Day and you will be entered into a draw to win this monster.

Friday, March 4, 2011

News for March....

Real Wine – Real Deals

With the election finally over and Fine Gael and Labour going though the motions to put together the basis for a government who can hopefully pull the country back from the abyss, we have put together some wines whose personalities eerily reflect some of the politicians we will have to look at for the next few years….*

*No analogies have been tortured in the making of this newsletter.

St. Michael Eppan Pinot Bianco 2009 (was €17.50 – now €14)
I have tasted this with a number of restaurant accounts recently and it is drinking extremely well. Surprisingly full-bodied, with crisp clear fruit and a long mineral finish. Slightly left of centre, but with great appeal. Eamon Gilmore.

Verus Chardonnay 2008 – Slovenia (was €19 now €14)
Slovenian Chardonnay is never going to be an easy sell and when this came in first, we were a little worried about it. However, it has settled down really well and showed brilliantly when we finally tried it again last week. Enda Kenny.

Chateau Larzac, Coteaux de Languedoc 2006 (was €13 now €10)
Medium-bodied, smooth and harmonious, this blend of Syrah and Grenache is brilliant value. A great crowd pleaser. Richard Bruton.

“Le Garagiste” St. Emilion Grand Cru 2005 (was €25 now €19)
A classic with a modern twist, this is made by Chateau Teyssier. Full-bodied, quite rich, but very smooth. A reliable performer. Ruairi Quinn.

Sasta by Niepoort, Portugal (was €16 now €13)
Wacky label, but the wine is actually quite sensible. Is this the future? Ming the Merciless.

St. Patrick’s Day
Our 12th Birthday is almost upon us, so we will have the usual range of great deals and tastings happening in the shop on St. Patrick’s Day. Call down to us to celebrate with a glass of wine and a great deal. As a bonus, anyone who comes in on the day and spends €50 or more will be entered into a draw to win a 5 litre (yes 5 LITRE) bottle of Sasta by Niepoort – that’s the one with the special Irish St. Patrick-inspired label.

Early Notice – Champagne Tasting
We will be hosting a champagne tasting of boutique champagne producer Bruno Paillard on Thursday, April 20th. Details will follow closer to the time but put the date in the diary.

Monday, February 28, 2011

The blind leading the blind

Blind tasting is great. When we decide on a new wine to import, we try to make sure it goes through a fairly rigorous blind test whereby the prospective wine is tasted blind against its peers in the market. It needs to outperform in terms of quality/price/drinkability in order for us to proceed with it. With this exercise have we avoided many pitfalls in the past.

The good thing about blind tasting is that it forces you to leave your prejudices outside the room and you just focus on what is in the bottle.

We had some friends round for dinner on Saturday night and one of them brough a bottle with all the labels steamed off and the cork removed so that all hints as to what the wine might be were removed. He even hinted that the bottle the wine was in might not be the original bottle. All with a view to catching me out...I know, I have some devious and cunning friends.

So we tasted the wine. It was a white wine, I got that much right. The nose wasn't giving too much away, but on the palate there were some muddled "white wine" flavours, muted citrus fruits, nothing too obvious. There was also a good deal of residual sugar. It reminded me of Black Tower, the semi-notorious German wine from the 80s which my family consumed with gusto on Christmas Day when I was a teenager - the only day we drank wine with our dinner.

I thought it was a cheap German Riesling, drinkable if not very pleasant. Turns out it was German alright, but not Riesling - it was a Pfalz Pinot Grigio from Lidl which he bought on promotion at €3.39!

We have done the maths before too many times, but out of this €3.39, appprox €2.59 is going to the government, about 75% of the cost of the wine. It is probably below cost, apparently this wine costs normally €5.99. From the consumer's point of view, wine has never been cheaper - unpleasant, but drinkable wine at this price is pretty amazing.


As a wine lover, this is still bad value. The bottom line is that this is industrial wine. There is no soul, no love, no care and attention. It doesn't taste of Pinot Grigio, it does nothing for that fine wine region of Germany, Pfalz. It is alcoholic, sweet and it is cheap. There is a large number of people for whom that is enough, I know, but I am not one of them. I like wines that taste great, have a bit of character, are made by people who are passionate about what they do and, yes, offer great value for money.

I would rather pay a tenner for a bottle that I really enjoy than pay a fiver for something I can barely stomach. Wine is like any other food and you should think about what you are putting into your body.

As it happens, I had been having a Twitter conversation, a slight divergence of opinion on this very wine with Martin Moran, who had been recommending it. My point was that this wine will sell as part of the great race to the bottom anyway, so is he not better off to recommend something a little more interesting?

Martin's point was that he thought it was better than most cheap Italian Pinot Grigios and was a good option for people looking for a cheap wine.

I suppose we are both right, but I would rather have the argument with him over a glass of (preferably decent) wine in Ely rather than within the confines of 140 characters in public.

Martin is on @winerepublic and I am on @dalkeywine if any of you are on Twitter and would like to follow our occasional twitterings...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Great Plans for Sainsbury's in Newry!

The depressing picture above is a taxi driver's view of a 3 mile tailback into Newry, taken a couple of years ago, the last time that duty on wine was increased. We all remember the daily traffic reports of traffic jams on the N1 as people flocked north to avail of cheap booze. Of course, while up there, they were buying groceries, clothes, TVs and aything else they could see.

The result of increasing excise duty was a net drop in the tax take. Not because people were drinking less, although consumption is dropping as well, but because they were buying in the North. And so, they put the duty back down the following year, the difference between the euro and sterling stabilised somewhat and people realised that the trip wasn't worth it.

Fine Gael are planning to put the duty on wine up by a euro per bottle by 2014. This does not result in an increase of €1 on the retail price. It is included in the bottom of the costing and thus any increase gets magnified by applying the usual formula for margin and VAT. In short a €1 increase in duty results in an increase of between €2 and €3 in retail price, depending on where you are starting from.

It would be catastrophic, not only for my business, but also for the whole restaurant and hospitality industry. Whatever hopes we have of increasing tourism could be forgotten about. At a time when we are desperately trying to offer value, cut costs and reduce prices as much as we can, this would be the straw that broke the camel’s back for many people in the wine trade.
So, if it goes ahead, it will:

- reduce the tax take for the government
- cost a huge number of jobs in retail and hospitality trade
- destroy tourism
- increase smuggling
- cause traffic jams for the lovely people of Newry

As you can see, I am not exactly in favour. The only hope is that they will be distracted by the next 100 billion we need for Anglo Irish or whatever other crisis awaits us!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Anne McManus shameless plug

Great local artist and fellow wine club member, Anne McManus is holding an exhibition of original paintings on a very timely “heart” theme in the Mill Theatre, Dundrum - starts tomorrow and runs till Feb 11th.

If you want something original and different and very nice for Valentine’s Day, or if you just want a nice painting, it will be well worth a look.

Rumour has it you might get a decent glass of wine as well…

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Wine Bubble

So, when did you realise there was an out-of-control property bubble in Ireland? Obviously, you will have realised it way before the Minister for Finance (now happily retired back in Offaly) or anyone else in the Department of Finace (unhappily still in situ), but was there a specific moment?

Was it when property in Dublin was more expensive per square metre than in Paris? Was it the articles about how a teacher/nurse/policeman could no longer qualify to get a mortgage big enough to buy a 3 bed semi within an hour of Dublin? For me, it was when AIB decided to sell all their buildings. It may have been 2006, not sure. It hardly matters.

There is something similar happening in the upper echelons of the wine world at the moment, most dramatically with a little wine called Chateau Lafite. About 5 years ago, you could buy the 2000 vintage for about €4,000. Now, it will cost you €24,000. The increase in price is being driven by demand from China, who have a particular fondness for this particular wine. Other first growths are also ridiculously priced. the price increases are not filtering down to the lesser lights in Bordeaux or anywhere else.

This is a bubble that will burst. The price will fall back to €4000 at some stage, but who knows when? For me, when a case of wine costs more than a decent car, it's equivalent to banks selling their own property.

If you have any first growth wines, sell them and buy almost anything else...

Bring in the New

We are in major spring-cleaning mode at the moment. The bin-end sale is over, Carol has done a great job on the shelves, we have cleaned out a load of crap from the back and now our focus is on giving the range a serious makeover.

At least 20 new wines are either in or are coming in over the next day or so and we will get that up to 50 by next week. Red Sancerre, new Syrah, new Australian wines, juicy Montepulciano, Cotes de Ventoux, Minervois, Viognier, Corbieres are just some of the new ones already on the shelf.

Some are on promotion - see http://www.onthegrapevine.ie/ for details; all will be on tasting over the coming weeks.

I still can't bring myself to sand and varnish the floor, though. I am standing by my story that the worn out floorboards add "character" !

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bargains galore

Discounts of upto 50% on selected wines are proving hard to resist for some of our customers - the wines are flying out. We don't have much of any of these wine, so grab a bargain while you can.

From South African shiraz for a fiver through mature Australian Cabernet and Chardonnay and on upto sublime Syrah from Bolgheri, Tuscany, there is simething for almost everyone in this admittedly eclectic, but interesting selection. Sale continues until limited stocks run out.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

January Bin End Sale

We will have reductions of upto 50% on certain wines this month. Highlights are:

Cave de Tain Syrah
Domaine Saladin Cotes du Rhone
Huet Vouvray

Johns Blend
Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay
Talunya Ridge

New Zealand
Walnut Block

South Africa
Fleur du Cap

and many, many more ............