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!