Dublin Wine & Fizz Fest – Dundrum

 

The inaugural Dublin Wine & Fizz Fest 2013 will take place on Saturday and Sunday, 19th/20th October in the Pembroke District, Dundrum.

Speaking at the launch of the event, Ruth Deveney, festival organiser and owner of Deveney’s of Dundrum Off-Licence, said: “With wine so readily available in every supermarket and garage across the country, a lot consumers are guided by familiar labels and brands that can afford to advertise – not quality and value for money. We’ve noticed a significant increase in wine drinkers visiting our shop, keen to know more about the wines they are purchasing. Help and guidance is rarely on hand at multiples and in garages. Therefore, in response to consumer demand, we decided to launch an event to give wine drinkers and lovers a taste for what’s available and how they can make informed purchases. The festival is not all about wine however – there will be a selection of artisan foods and some great live music too.” 

The Dublin Wine & Fizz Fest 2013 is also designed to provide a platform for small, family-owned wineries to promote their offerings. Over 500 wines will be available to sample, from single-estate Amarones, to aged Verdejos and Blanc de Blanc Champagnes, as well as a variety of Ports and dessert wines.

Mouth-watering tapas will be served by Porterhouse Dundrum and a range of carefully selected cheeses will also be available to match each wine choice. Live music will add to the atmosphere throughout the two-day event and some of Dublin’s up-and-coming artists will display their latest pieces within the venue.  

 Tickets for The Dublin Wine & Fizz Fest 2013 are priced at €15, or two for €25, which includes a free Riedel wine glass on arrival. Tickets for the event are available through Deveney’s of Dundrum, with a limited number available on the door, for both days.

 

You can follow all the action on Twitter @WineFizzFest

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Wines to fall for this Autumn

Autumn is about falling leaves, shortening days, slightly chillier nights and warm evening fires. Just as we dress seasonally, we tend to eat and drink seasonally and at this time of year we revert back to our comfort wholesome foods of game, roasts and stews.

The summer is a little hot for the big, juicy, spicy style reds and autumn allows us to ease back gently into these wine styles, but it’s still a wee bit early to be diving into the big boys of heavy brooding dark reds like oaked shiraz and grenache.

In autumn medium bodied wines with aromas of wood, tobacco and pepper are the perfect follow on from the bright and fruity summer reds and a perfect gradual introduction to the heavier styles suited to cold November and December evenings in front of the fire.

It’s the perfect time of year to try a Montelpulciano d’Abruzzo from the central slopes of Italy, these wines are full of rustic charm and stewed fruit, great with grilled meat and roast chicken.

Arboreto Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, highly aromatic with earthy notes and black berries, has an inky-purple colour with a thick, almost syrupy mouthfeel, for €10.99.

A red wine partnered with October is wine from the Piedmonte region in Italy the world renowned truffle region celebrates October with a bang, try a Barbara d’Alba or d’Asti to match your rich mushroom infused dishes or if your lucky enough your fresh white truffle.

Montaribaldi Barbera d’Asti, ruby red with violet tints, with a complex balance of plum, cherry and blackcurrant at €15.95

While spring and summer whites are fresh, zesty and zingy, autumn whites take on a more serious note of oak and complexity. An oaked chardonnay from the Languedoc in France or the valleys of Chile are perfect autumnal wines with vanilla aromas, golden hues and rich fruit.

Rawen Reserva Chardonnay, a richly coloured white wine with aromas of banana, vanilla and a hint of pineapple, great depth of flavour on the palate at €12.95.

St Jean du Noviciat Chardonnay, ripe fruits on the nose with a touch of creamy vanilla. Big on fruit with a delicious oak and pepper finish at €16.95

Excise increase on wine?

There is a rumour that there will be another increase to the duty on wine in the coming budget. The rumour says about 50 cent a bottle. This rumour also has it that beer and spirits won’t be touched. Rumours sometimes have a habit of becoming self-fulfilling prophecies so I am perhaps softening the way already for an increase. The more we talk about it the more we accept it maybe. The recent backlash against Diageo’s Arthur’s Day is playing into the hands of those who wish to increase the duty. Alcohol is bad. All alcohol is bad. Bad alcohol. Bad. And yet another rumour that was flying around this industry last year was of the Big Brewery Boys who were overheard post budget by A Much Smaller Wine Importer celebrating the fact that their lobbying had successfully increased duty on wine by €1 a bottle, but beer by only 10 cent a pint. As far as I remember the rumour had the Big Brewery Boys drinking in the Sky Bar at the Guinness Storehouse having no idea that A Much Smaller Wine Importer happened to be showing a visiting producer around Dublin. Small town.

When Michael Noonan announced the increase in the last budget there was initially a bit of confusion. He said €1 a bottle but did not specify if this included vat of not. It did, and it usually does. Duty on wine not exceeding 15% alcohol by volume (ABV) is currently €2.78 a bottle, ex vat. Once you go over 15% ABV the rate increases.

The general perception is that the duty increase is applied to the price of a bottle of wine. It does not. It’s applied to the cost. We extend credit on that cost and so we apply margin. The retailer or restaurateur then applies their margin. So when is €1 not €1? When it comes to duty. The only way to ensure that the duty increase is all that is added to the price of a bottle of wine is to do so at the point of sale, but how to do that? I am not sure it is logistically possible and so for wine importers our role as tax collector becomes even more onerous. I mentioned that here previously.

So a 50 cent increase, let’s assume again this would include vat and make it 41 cent before vat, this increase would then bring the current duty on a bottle of wine to from €2.78 to €3.19 ex vat. The importer will apply their margin to this €3.19, the retailer or restaurateur will apply theirs.

Add vat and €3.19 becomes €3.92. Nearly €4.00 on every bottle of wine you drink would be going to the Exchequer – regardless of the price of the bottle – I mean if you buy a bottle in a supermarket for €4.00 then it’s below cost selling as the Revenue will take the entire €4.00 you hand over. Pay €8.00 for a bottle and you’re drinking the first half for the Exchequer.

A very good read by Liam Cabot of Cabot & Co which includes the following very interesting quote

“The EU Commission challenged Ireland some years ago about what it considered an unacceptably favourable treatment of beer (a largely domestic product) as opposed to wine (a largely imported product).” 

can be found here  http://cabotandco.blogspot.ie/2013/09/exercise-your-frustration-on-excise.html

Win Tickets to the NI Food and Drink Show

We’re giving away 5 pairs of tickets to see James Martin on the final day of the much anticipated Northern Ireland Food and Drink Show in the King’s Hall, Belfast on 27th October 2013.

Each pair of tickets has a face value of £36 and guarantees your seat in the Celebrity Chef Theatre for James Martin’s live cooking demonstration with our very own Jane Boyce MW matching his food with our lovely wines.

To be in with a chance of winning this wonderful prize, simply follow the instructions below!

If Twitter is your Social network of choice simply retweet the following at www.twitter.com/jnwine to enter:

RT to win a pair of tickets to the final day of the much anticipated @FoodDrinkShowNI on October 27. More info http://bit.ly/19zXUbS #jnwine

If you’re Facebook user, head over to www.facebook.com/jnwinemerchant and hit the share button to share the following with your friends:

Want to win a pair of tickets to the much anticipated final day of the NI Food and Drink Show on October 27? To enter, HIT the share button and share this post with your friends. We’ve 5 pairs to give away so get sharing! Winners will be announced next Tuesday (1 October). More info http://bit.ly/19zXUbS

If you use both Twitter and Facebook feel free to enter the competition on both. It’ll double your chances of winning!

Terms and Conditions

- Just ensure your tweet contains our Twitter hashtag #jnwine and the link to this webpage as shown above. We will contact the winners privately, so make sure you are following us on Twitter and have liked us on Facebook in order for us to be able private/direct message the winners. If we can’t contact the winner via Facebook or Twitter we will have to award the prize to another entrant.
- All retweets/shares made before 12.00pm on Tuesday October 1st 2013 will be entered into the prize draw to win.
- The winner will be selected at random on Tuesday 1st October 2013 from everybody who retweets/shares the above. The winner will be announced on the 1st October 2013.
- In order to participate, you must have a Twitter or Facebook account.
- The show is in Belfast Northern Ireland. Travel to and from the show is not included, you must make your own travel arrangements for the show.
- The winner will be randomly selected from all valid retweets/Facebook shares.
- The winner will be contacted on the 1st October 2013.
- All entrants must be aged 18 or over to be eligible to win.
- Winners must be prepared to provide a postal address that we can send the tickets to.

Liveblog – Orellan Bierzo Roble 2009

Tonight I shall be liveblogging a special that I picked up in OBrien’s in Carrickmines not one hour ago. I went there looking for some beers but the selection in this shop is much inferior to the wide range available at their Beacon Store, for some reason.

I should also mention our weekend wine experience. As we have recently celebrated 10 years (legally) together, we decided (and we had a voucher) to go to the Cliff House in Ardmore for some Michelin starred food, and for a quiet weekend away.

Long story short, the food was amazing and not bad value when you factor everything in. Three courses of Michelin starred food for €68, which included an amuse bouche (four separate things) and a tasty sorbet before the main course, sounds like a lot of dough but when the grub is that good I don’t think it’s bad value. I suspect you’d pay a lot more than that in Paddy Giblets or one of the other starred places in Dublin.

We opted for the optional wine tasting accompaniment (specially chosen) for our three courses which was another €27 per head.

My smoked salmon starter (done about 8 ways) came with a Tahbilk Marsanne, a white not for the faint hearted ( I ordered it once before, for a group and just about nobody liked it) and it suited well. My veal main came with a glass of Chateau Ksara from Lebanon, which I initially decided was much too tannic but actually worked really well with the meat, although it’s a wine that resolutely needs food to accompany it. With my various apple deserts (spice apple cake = best dessert ever), I was given a decently large glass of an Austrian sweet wine called Kracher, which was delicious.

 Anyway – on to tonight’s live blog…
Orellan Mencia Bierzo Roble 2009 €9.99 (reduced from €15-99)

7pm. I like it. Apparently it’s made from the Mencia grape with which I am not familiar, but at this early stage it’s elegant and well balanced with a hint of plummy fruit. It think this will improve as the night wears off.

THE WINE BUNCH TASTING – Picpoul de Pinet

After years in the vinous equivalent of the broom cupboard, picpoul de pinet has finally made it to the dining room sideboard, writes Ernie Whalley. This crisp, refreshing white wine from Languedoc is starting to appear on more and more restaurant menus, particularly touted as an accompaniment to fish. At the same time, those who are partial to a glass of white at home are coming to appreciate picpoul as a pleasant alternative to the likes of sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio. Notable for an initial rakish acidity (the name can be translated as ‘lip stinger’) the wine mellows in the mouth, rounding out and revealing bright, fresh flavours of apple, pear, yellow plums and other stone fruit. I find the pear element handy when it comes to assessing quality; the better versions taste of fresh fruit and not of peardrops. An engaging summer sipper, picpoul comes into its own when teamed with oysters, mussels, whitebait and crab – think of it as ‘Southern Muscadet’ and you won’t be far out.

 
Felines de Jourdan 2012 €12.75 www.winesdirect.ie BRONZE
 
EW: apples and pears and a touch of lemon and lime – all you’d expect from picpoul. Energising minerality and a pleasing, classy presence.
 
MM: A classic of the style with a light chalky mineral note mixed with pears, apple, and citrus fruit.
 
15.5/20
 
Domaine Combe Rouge 2012 €11.99
Egans, Drogheda, Co Louth and other independents  BRONZE
 
EW: Lots of crisp apple fruit and a livening tinge of pink grapefruit. Great fruit/acid balance from this sound wine from a very savvy co-operative.
 
MM: Perfect for the end of summer with a refreshing mix of tangy grapefruit, pear, red apple and grapefruit.
 
16/20
 
Villemarin Blanc de Blanc 2012 www.mitchellandson.com €13.49 SILVER
 
EW: Intriguing herbal hints (oregano?) on the nose. A melange of pear, apple, stonefruit, and grapefruit makes for quite a complex and very enjoyable wine. 
 
MM: A slightly riper style with good concentration and attractive peach notes alongside the expected red apple and pear, with a fresh lemony finish.
 
17/20
 
 
EW: With apple, pear and white peach flavours, this wine is sound rather than profound with a weight and depth of flavours distinguishing it from many of the others we tasted.
 
MM: A very more-ish mix. A fruit salad combining nectarine, Williams pear and red apple. Good length too.
 
16/20

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RESTAURANT REVIEW – Cleaver East by Oliver Dunne

Come tooled up, could be like a re-make of Gangs of New York. I’m the guy who gave a bad rap to Bon Appetit, remember.”

 

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I was tense. I’d read the latest episode of Cleavergate, Lucinda O’Sullivan’s well-publicised riposte to Oliver Dunne’s broadside and sensed there could be trouble. That night, I struggled with some difficulty into The Clarence. The gimp wasn’t down to my bad knee, more the eleven inches of Japanese carbon steel strapped to my thigh. I noted approvingly that Imelda was wearing her nine inch stilettos, just the job for giving an antsy chef a poke in the eye should the occasion demand. Despite my disguise (monocle/trilby/false mustache) cover was blown from minute one. “In what name was the booking made?”, enquired the receptionist. “Pronsias Fortescue-Smythe” I replied, glibly. “Ah, hello, Ernie,” said the maître d’ following hard on her heels.

In the event, the circumspection, the weaponry, proved unnecessary. We had a perfectly pleasant evening, towards the conclusion of which Oliver Dunne, the culinary scene’s Roy Keane, emerged from the kitchen for a chat. He seemed in good form. I gently chided him for having the crass temerity to ignore the old adage “one shouldn’t pick a fight with a guy who can afford to buy a barrel of ink”. Oliver seemed largely unrepentant. “So what. We’re flying,” he confided.

The mellow, high-vaulted, church-like dining room at The Clarence (which I’ve always loved)  has been transformed by the introduction of an island cocktail bar. It looks mystifyingly incongruous, like a whale beached in The Strawberry Beds, but does add an air of good-timey informality hitherto absent. I will endorse Lucinda’s criticism that the tables-for-two are too small, also too close together to impart confidences to your dining companion. Noise levels, in a two-thirds full room, registered an ear-bruising 96 on my meter, hampering conversation and rendering the muzak inaudible.

 Anyhow, here’s the word according to The Wol on Cleaver East’s cuisine. Reviews have ranged from Lucinda’s mild put-down to John McKenna’s multiple Meg Ryan moment, the majority, at least according to Oliver, “Amazing”.  As you’ll probably suspect, the truth lies somewhere in between. 

 The format, a whole menu’s worth of tasting-and-sharing plates seems initially novel, until you consider the Chinese custom of dim sum which originated in Canton, probably in the 17th century. You can break it down into four sections: one, a dim sum or ración (Basque tapas equivalent in a larger-than-tapas portion) experience like the lobster dumpling, more about which anon; two, half-sized main courses of which the rare breed belly pork and the crispy lamb shoulder are exemplars; three, a section called ‘Twisted Classics’, reworked old favourites; and four, desserts. The menu, commendably, included a 14 item list of allergens, including lupin. Anaphylaxites may be reassured by the absence of the toxic flower from any dish.

A word on timing: you are allowed, nominally at least, one hour and forty-five minutes to order, eat up and depart. You are charged per dish and there seems to be no lower limit on the number of dishes you consume. If you want to go through the card and linger over your meal, I’d suggest you eat late as at, say, 10.30pm the likelihood of someone coming in and demanding your table has got to be lessened.

 The sharing notion hit the buffers early on when Imelda and I simultaneously decided we wanted our own portion of lobster dumpling. Were I to nit-pick I’d say the pasta dumpling was slightly too-thick. However, the lobster concealed within was replete with flavour and the broth in which the dumplings were immersed, simply sensational. A thin, sensitively constructed sour/sweet liquid, with a rampant lemongrass zing over silky coconut milk had us punching the air and, furthermore, caused us to censure the Americans at the next table for leaving theirs in the bowl. Tiny Chinese mushrooms and micro bak choi leaves added further taste and textural treats.

 The next dish to arrive at table was the St.Tola goat cheese parfait, with ‘heirloom beets’ and a walnut parfait, as perfect a combination of texture and flavour as you could imagine. I reckon St.Tola gets better year-on-year. We had ordered the belly pork and the lamb, both of which received an unqualified thumbs-up. The first came with a solid apple and ginger purée, neutralising the fat nicely; the second with baby turnips and a rosemary aioli that balanced perfectly the richness of the righteously selected meat. Two fine traditional-themed dishes, perfectly cooked and prettily presented.

 We dipped our toes hesitatingly into the sea of ‘Twisted Classics’, selecting the fish and chips from a list that included scotch egg (apparently it’s a fish dish – shame, a vegan scotch egg would have been really elegant), paella and beef curry. We both concluded that our classic had been tortured rather than twisted. The fish was unadorned – where was the novel take on crisp batter we were hoping for? The ‘chips’ were three diminutive flaccid batons of courgette, viagrafied by a condom of panko-style breadcrumbs, an attempt at innovation that missed its mark. Dressing up a courgette as a ‘chip’ is, in my opinion, on a par with selecting Lily Savage to play in the Lions’ front row.

 After this blip, the joy recommenced. The Dexter beef carpaccio with a well-balanced rocket pesto and large discs of wonderful aged parmesan received a unanimous round of applause, with the slight quibble that that this dish should, for heightened effect, have come to table before the lamb and pork.

 At least two of my fellow critics have praised Cleaver East’s panna cotta, one going so far as to suggest that “the strawberry and cream panna cotta is going to be the most-talked-about dish of the city in 2013.” Well, afraid my voice won’t be added to the cacophony. The panna had the texture and some of the flavour of condensed milk. The strawberries were bereft of flavour, which not even the vibrant coulis could disguise. The honeycomb brittle,on the other hand, was an inspired touch. Anyhow, unwilling to let the meal end on a low note, we completed the circle with a third bowl of the lobster dumplings, about which we enthused as much as we had about our first. This time, we shared.

 What’s left to say? The wine list is a work in progress, requiring more input at base level. Once could eat economically at Cleaver East but if you have to spend over €30 to get merchantable wine it takes the gloss off. The espresso was surprisingly good. Service, at our table and others, was attentive and informative all night. The average cost of a tasting plate was just under €10. Two dishes per person would make a satisfying light lunch; three, a meal; four, a night out. 

 My take is, Cleaver East by Oliver Dunne, to give it its full title, is a restaurant with two fine chefs (the other is Rory Carville, ex-Locks) working hard to create a niche for their new love child. The cooking is highly skilled and, in parts, adventurous. There’s the odd wonky idea, which I’d forgive on the axiom of ‘nothing venture, nothing gain’. Cleaver East is not ‘significant’ or ‘important’ as other critics have claimed nor is it in any way mind-blowing, calm down lads. It’s just a good restaurant that enhances the Dublin dining scene by way of providing a different way to eat.

 

Cleaver East, East Essex  Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2 Tel: 01 531 3500

 Food: ****

Wine ***

Service ****

Ambience ***

Value ****

Overall ****

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Lidl French Wine Sale


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Lidl Pomerol 150x150

Lidl’s French Wine Sale has just started and I was fortunate to go to their wine tasting and taste the range.   I am very often asked about inexpensive wines as people are naturally curious.  While there were one or two gems at around €10, the quality you can get if you are prepared to pay a bit more is a lesson is worth discovering for yourself.  In the race to find the cheapest wine, we can often forget how good wine can be.  Here are my top picks.  

Wines are in-store from Sept 16th, but only available while stocks last.

 

White wines:

Château des Perligues, Graves 2012 has gorgeous herbal characters (chopped fennel, dill), combined with lemon and leafiness, rounded by a touch of oak.  Fantastic length.  A lovely little wine with more than average flavour at €9.99.

 

Red wines:

Château Clos du Moulin 2007, Médoc Cru Bourgeois – a lovely example of mature Bordeaux; very savoury style, with great length.   €9.99.

Château Haut Cormier Bordeaux 2011 is quite traditional in style; flavours are marrying nicely together & show smokiness, black fruit, some vegetal character, and chewy tannin.  A food wine. €8.99.

Ch Maurac, Haut Médoc Cru Bourgeois 2007 another example of mature Medoc; a mouthfilling style, with herbal, tea-like character, dried dark fruit and still-firm tannins.  Great balance & length. €16.99.

Château Hermitage Mazeyres Pomerol 2011 has wonderful richness, a velvety texture, deep clove-like character, with particularly generous fruit, sweet spice and layers of oak, earth, cedar, black fruit. Quite opulent, with super length.  €22.99

Château Pailhas St. Emilion Grand Cru 2010 is pretty classic – earthy, oaky, black fruit, big presence.  Full-bodied with intense fruitcake character, great depth, well-balanced and lengthy.  €19.99.

Tables de Bacchus Gigondas 2012 is a big powerful wine, firm and intense, with tightly woven earthy, leather, vanilla, black plum and pepper layers.  It would reward decanting to allow the wine open up, and would merit a decent T Bone steak to go with it. €14.99

Châteauneuf du Pape 2012 – there are many mediocre offerings out there.  This is an enjoyable, pretty respectable version, particularly for the price tag of €12.99.  The palate is full-bodied, intensely peppery style, with black fruity, hints of leather and a long peppery finish. 

St. Joseph 2011 has an attractive animal aroma, and is a ripe fruity style, with sweet and sour blueberries coming through amid earthiness and a rich texture. €12.99.

Crôzes Hermitage Les Sarralières 2012 has savoury smokiness combined with some layers of licorice and aniseed, chewy prunes and peppery spicy finish. €11.99.

Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits La Perriere 2011 is light to medium in body, with refreshing and vibrant fruity character, together with decent savoury, earthy depth.  Bring on the baked ham! €12.99. 

 

 

 

 

Cases of Galway makes a Splash in Dublin

Cases Wine Warehouse is on the Tuam Road in Galway. They recently held a silent tasting for the wine Press in Dublin. This may not seem like any great deal but it was.
After the event Peter Boland, commander in chief at Cases, wrote (yes, by hand!..) to each and every one of us who attended and thanked us for attending. This may not seem like any great deal but it was.
There were about 125 wines shown at the tasting. This may not seem like any great deal but it was.
To cap it all off I received an email this week letting me know that Peter had listened to comments he received on the day and in response had since renegotiated some of his pricing with his suppliers. This does seem like a very big deal. It is.
Wine retailing in Ireland has reached a crossroads. Compete with the multiples and supermarkets and lose. Plough your own furrow of excellence and hope to succeed. I have interviewed the very best of the best in our large wine distributors. They have repeatedly told me how they are determined to retain equity in a supermarket driven sector (ie keep price levels up so as to make a profit where everyone can survive in the business) and how they have the best interests of their suppliers and customers at the core of their businesses. Garbage and poppycock come to mind. Look at the shelves this week and see how the brands are happy to lose money, support the supermarket sector and to a very large extent ‘to hell with the rest’.

Now, I support the supermarket sector and I’m a fan of keen pricing on brands and of good value with their direct imports. I don’t want them to go away. But life would be insufferable if that’s all we had!  If that came to pass we would end up drinking what we were told to drink and not what we would like to.

We really need an independent wine retailing sector to survive. Unfortunately that will only happen if it comes up with the ideas itself. Too many retailers are looking for others to give them advice and solutions. The very essence of independent retailing is that you do it yourself.

So, if the wine press as a corps don’t travel to the West then the West needs to come to the corps. That means traveling to Dublin! Well done Cases.

If the wine trade is becoming positively lame, impersonal and run solely by business grads who reckon buying a bottle of wine is akin to buying a new tie, or a smart pair of shoes, then do something about it. It might even be as simple as writing a letter! Well done Cases.

If the independent wine trade has something to shout about such as quality, keen pricing and a wide range of truly interesting wines then it needs to market itself. If that means opening a few bottles in the right places for the right people then do something about it. Well done Cases.    

 
The wines! (bt price: case price)

It would be easy to point out a few expensive labels and then say something like, ‘wow these are good’. I prefer to say that Peter chooses and buys well and most of his wine above the fifteen euro mark, or thereabouts, will not disappoint. Take his very fine Autoritas range from Chile – the Gran Reserva 2011 Chardonnay from the Casablanca Valley is markedly different and ultimately rewarding at €16.95:14.95. Love the Autoritas Malbec from Colchagua also! Or the Domaine des Anges Archange Ventoux AC 2010 at €24.95:21.95 is truly excellent. I completely love Viticultors del Priorat Morlanda white 2011 at €22.95:18.95 
on the value side a Big Recommendation would be the Boutinot Charte Assemblage Languedoc 2012 at €9.95:8.95 – tons of interest and tons of fruit. Mind you, their Domaine de Vedilhan is a lovely wine also.   
This tasting came alive for me with Cases Italian wine selection. Outstanding both for typicity, quality and pricing. They have a range from Cantina Offida, from the Marches region, due in this month that really rocks especially with the less expensive bottles. The Ser Dante Tuscans and indeed Casavecchia from Piedmont and Musita from way down in Sicily all shone on the day.
Wine warehouses are all about visiting and experimenting and getting to know bottles and people.
It’s a Cases thing that Cases in Galway do very well.  

Peter Boland’s welcome : from Galwaynews.ie

Exercise your frustration on Excise…

Following some interest in a Blog I wrote last May – Anyone Up for a Fight? - and given the upcoming Budget, I decided I’d have a rummage through the Department of Finance website to see if there was any more recent information.
My contention in the original Blog is that the Excise rates applied to Wine are unfair in relation to those levied on beer. And it’s not just my own personal opinion – the documents noted that “The EU Commission challenged Ireland some years ago about what it considered an unacceptably favourable treatment of beer (a largely domestic product) as opposed to wine (a largely imported product).”Indeed, the European Commission took a case to the ECJ against Sweden for exactly that in 2008, which although unsuccessful at the time, set a number of interesting precedents that I believe are now relevant in the way Irelandtaxes wine relative to beer and spirits.
Much of the original material had come from documents produced internally by the Department’s own Tax Strategy Group (TSG). They produce briefing documents on various revenue collecting subjects, including Excise, and their reports are circulated in advance of each Budget.
However they are not released publicly until long after each Budget. So I discovered all the TSG documents for 2012 had suddenly appeared on their website just recently. And the one on Excise made very interesting reading…
Remember that all of these figures are PRIOR to last year’s budget in which Minister Noonan raised Excise Duty on wine by €1 a bottle including Vat, claiming that the increase, along with much smaller increases on beer (10 cents on a pint) and spirits would generate an additional €180 million.
So BEFORE he made those decisions in the Budget, he was told by his own Tax Strategy Group that:
  • If he simply brought Irish Excise rates for all alcohol products into line with those in Northern Ireland, there would be a total GAIN of €209 million to the Irish State. In the case of Wine and Beer, it would have meant an extra 20 cents on a pint and 41 cents on a bottle of wine. Guess which one lost out…
  • That the Excise rate for beer in Ireland was just over 100% higher than the EU average, and that Excise on wine was already a staggering 400% higher than the EU average.

Following his hikes, it’s now more like wine is 600% higher than the EU average.
You can read the full TSG document here – TSG General Excise Duties Budget 2012 - just remember this was all prior to last December’s budget.
Surely there is a case to be made, particularly since the last Budget, that wine (a largely imported product) is being taxed unfairly in relation to beer (a largely domestic product)?

Lidl Brings Fine French Wines to Ireland

I was at a tasting recently where Lidl presented us with a range of French wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy, The Rhone Valley and Alsace. These were presented as ‘Fine Wine’ and prices ranged €6.99 to €22.99. In addition, they were all presented by Master of Wine Richard Bampfield. All very impressive.
Before I go further I must emphasise that Richard Bampfield is a world class taster and an exceptional educator. Well done Lidl. Mind you, it doesn’t mean I agree with either of them on every wine!!
Lidl uses Richard’s rating of these wines according to a 100 point rating scale. Thus, anything above 90 is ‘Outstanding’, above 85 is ‘Very Good’ and above 80 is ‘Good’. I hate these scales as nothing ever seems to fall below 80 and so it’s effectively a 20 point scale and, let’s face it, if its not at least ‘Good’ it shouldn’t be on sale in the first place. This is a ‘Fine Wine’ Selection after all!  
Rant over. How are the wines?
First, before I get into trouble – as I have in the past – I consider ‘Fine Wine’ another term for ‘Well Made’ wines typical of the region they come from, true to the grapes they were made with, showing off along the way wine making skill and expertise. I do not think that Fine Wine is a term that should be reserved for ‘The Best of The Best’, ‘Hoity Toity’ or indeed the ‘Most Expensive’ on the list or indeed in the shop. Unfortunately the latter usually wins out when those wines should really fly under the banner of something akin to ‘Rare and Wonderful’.   
In general, and to my surprise, I was most pleased with the wines from Bordeaux here than from the other three regions. I was least impressed by the Rhone Valley. This is odd as in terms of ease of growing grapes, and quantities of good fruit available, I’d have thought the Rhone would walk away with this. Such are the  vagaries of buying wine, I suppose, and possibly also trying too hard to force prices down – do we really need a not-so-good Chateauneuf du Pape at €12.99 when an extra Euro would have made it a very much better product altogether?
Check these out as a few of my favourites from the Selection: (bear in mind, though, that I would have very little trouble teaching a class on the wines of Bordeaux using this Lidl selection alone! Praise indeed.)
BORDEAUX
Cotes de Blaye Chateau Grand Mazerolles 2010 €9.99 r
My notes say VGVM. (Very Good Value for Money) This is very accurate wine delivering a fruit, structure and length in a very satisfying way. It will support a well done steak meal or indeed a rich pizza meal. Decant for immediate enjoyment.

Graves Chateau Gales 2009 €12.99 r
Crowd Pleaser. Very ‘international’ style with a cassis and oak driven fruit jumping out of the glass. Luckily it doesn’t end there as the fruit develops well on the palate to give a finely balanced and quite rich wine. The extra degree of fruitiness and perfume here ‘allows’ this wine to explore dishes that are both creamier in nature and more adventurous with their sauces. Bear in mind though, there is a great tannic finish here that needs a counter balance from the food.

Listrac Medoc Chateau Rose Saint Croix 2010 €15.99 r
Really good wine showing a fine structure and well driven, lively and tight fruit. Very versatile and has great ageing potential. This has a rounded elegance that would do as well in a smoking room as with a well smoked meal!
BURGUNDY
Chablis 2012 €8.99 w
Such a versatile wine style. Simple examples such as this always please me as the relatively lean fruit, acidic structure and tingly finish are just a perfect food accompaniment. Bake out some fresh cod!

Bourgogne Haut Cotes de Nuits la Perriere 2011 €12.99 r
The Pinot Noir grape is a hard one to get right as an inexpensive wine as stretching it often results in a mean fruit. This fella is lively, fruity and interesting. It would make a super match to the Chablis above.

ALSACE
Such an overlooked region of France. Good to see it featuring here.

Pinot Blanc 2012 €8.99 w

I like this for its simplicity, peachiness, fleshiness and VGVM.

Cremant d’Alsace Brut J.P. Muller €14.99

Excellent sparkling wine. Has all the hallmarks of very fine wine with tremendous fruit, finely preserved
structure and well honed age profile. Can grace the very best of celebrations with ease.
There we are. If you look at the Scores received by the wines I have recommended you will see they all perform well but do not necessarily achieve the very best scores! If these were all scored in a different setting and at a different time I have no doubt their scores would change. That’s what happens all over the world from one wine Fair to another!

Equally, however, I have no doubt that I would continue to rate my favourites as highly all over again. 
 

Greenhough Tasting

Last Monday evening we were delighted to have Andrew Greenghough from Greenhough Wines in New Zealand in the shop for a private tasting. We had a great turn out with people literally sitting in every corner! Andrew guided us through a selection of his whites and reds and a few treats too.

First up was the Riesling:

2011 Nelson Riesling This was the favourite of the crowd, lovely nose of sweet green apple and mandarin. Rich sweet citrus on the palate with a lingering finish. The nose also had a slight kerosene edge that Andrew mentioned he wasn’t a fan of but which didn’t seem to detract from people’s likes.

2012 Nelson Riesling I Loved this! The 2012 wine hade more crisp acidity on the palate a fresher cleaner citrus lime/mandarin note. From a much cooler vintage than the previous wine. The crisp acidity and minerality give this wine a very fresh clean finish.

Next we hit the New Zealand Classic Sauvignon Blanc:

2011 Nelson Sauvignon Blanc has slightly ‘sweet’  passion fruit and tropical aromas, leading into a classy wine. Very mouthfilling, it is fruity, with ripe tropical-fruit flavours, showing lovely delicacy and richness, finely balanced acidity, and a long, slightly spicy, dry finish. Again the older more rounded wine was the favourite.

2012 Nelson Sauvignon Blanc punchy with vital  fresh  passion and citrus fruits over a hint of gooseberry and grassy-ness. Zesty and fresh on the palate with crisp tropical and citrus fruits and nice mineral edge. Absolute classic. Beats Sancerre any day!

Then the Pinot Blanc:

2010 ‘Hope Vineyard’ Pinot Blanc Subdued nose with slight hints of pear, apple and oaky spice. It’s very full-bodied, weighty, complex and rich, with deep peach, pear and spice flavours, slightly buttery and savoury. A wine that split the room,  this is certainly a food wine!

Next was the Reds:

2007 Nelson Pinot Noir Ripe dark and medium red cherry aromas, ripe cranberry and floral notes. The palate was juicy with fleshy cherry flavours and notes of strawberry and raspberry,  and light unobtrusive oak spice.

2010 Nelson Pinot Noir Intense red cherry and pomegranate aromas with hints of clove. Very Ripe and young style plenty of fruit flavours and structure from tannin. A wine that will mature nicely.

2003 ‘Hope Vineyard’ Pinot Noir** Very expressive nose despite being 10 years old,  with juniper berry, star anise and thyme. Berries is the theme of the seductive palate with complimentary fruit compot.  A vibrant mineral freshness adds life and elegance to the mouthfeel.  Soft silky tannins on the long lingering  finish  with notes of savoury berries, liquorice, subtle oak spice.

And finally the Desert:

2012 Noble Riesling Typical nose of botrytised Riesling citrus and apricot and peach. Lovely fresh and zesty palate and finish. Delightful desert wine that you could drink a whole bottle of in no time!!! Lovely and luscious!!

**Not Available for sale. This stock is from the shops tasting reserves.

Tutored Tasting with Nick Walker

So Heres the Deal:

Tutored Tasting Wednesday 25th September 8pm in store.

Nick Walker from O’Leary Walker Wines will guide us through a selection of their wines including some vertical tastings of different vintages of the same wine along with some rare back vintages. We have spied bottles of 2003 Shiraz, and some of the Multi Award Winning 2004 Watervale Riesling, down in the cellar and they might make an appearance on the night!

Entry is €5

For any further information or queries drop us an email, or give us a call on 091-533706

Can’t make it, we have a few spaces left for our Logan Tasting Dinner in Kappa Ya on Friday 27th September.

NSPCC Childline Fine Wine Challenge 2013

Gather your most knowledgeable and thirsty friends for an evening of wine-related brain teasing. The ChildLine Fine Wine Challenge looms large and there is a trophy to be won.

The evening will kick off with a sparkling wine reception (the perfect opportunity to scope out the competition) and then on to the quiz. There will be wines to be tasted, nibbles to be eaten, buzzers to be buzzed, answers to be guessed, bought or bribed and plenty of fun to be had. Gather your team, book a table and help us raise money for an excellent cause.

Taste-Testing the Rhône

We’re back! Let the taste-testing begin again. After a brief summer break and for the coming autumnal months, our taste-testers will be sent nothing but the Rhône. InterRhone Think RedYou’ll be our very own Rhône Rangers. In order to help you all get into the mood for Rhône Wine Week, 25th to 30th November, we are going to be sending out bottles from the Rhône. You might get a Côte du Rhône, you might get a Côtes du Rhône Villages, would we put a Châteauneuf du Pape, or a Crozes-Hermitage in there? Would we?

IR_01194

(C) Inter-Rhône

Have a look at our Taste-Testers’ page on the WineStore.ie website here and you’ll see the kind of thing we’re after. Remember, no experience necessary, just a willingness to taste and report back.

Interested? Well send us an email or let us know via twitter (this time to @RhoneWineWeek please) or post on the Rhône Wine Week  Facebook page and we’ll get back to you.

When Hails Come to Town

I feel like a teacher, but with longer holidays. It’s been a long time since the last article. In fact it has been nearly four months. I’d love to say I have been sitting in a hammock counting my money and drinking my wine, but I’ve been busy. I have lots of news.

RednoseWine v2

Much like The Nationalist, Red Nose Wine has gone through some changes. We moved in July to a customized Retail space in The Regal Centre on the David Road, beside Larry O Keeffe’s Furniture. We are delighted with the new digs and customer feedback has been hugely positive. We hope you’ll get a chance to come down and say hello.

Regal-Centre-Montage-Photo

The Regal Centre had a re-launch last weekend. We’ll plan an evening event closer to the season that is jolly but we won’t mention the C word yet. We’ve the B word to come first ( Budget ).

Now if I continue in this vein of blatant self promotion it will be another four months before I get another article, so I think I better start talking about wine, rather than the selling of wine. As the summer draws to an end, a line from an old poem came to me.

Last of the Summer Wine

The “last of the summer wine” has all been enjoyed but fear not for the Autumn wines are just bursting to be sampled. Though our summer is over, the last of its golden rays are still doing their best to hang on.

As summers go it was a wonderful vintage. Comparisons with the few that came before are also helping of course. 2010 was a great year in Bordeaux but is not as lauded as it might be as it came on the back of the wonderful 2009.

However 2013 wasn’t such a great summer for some winemakers. There is one scourge that comes along that frightens the life out of ever winemaker I know. A form of solid precipitation (hailstones) can destroy a year’s work in a matter of minutes. They can measure between 5 and 150mm in diameter and when they strike, the good life turns very sour indeed.

When Hail come to town

A great friend of Red Nose Wine in Bordeaux, Gavin Quinney of Chateau Bauduc recently went through a very traumatic visit from this most vicious of natural disasters. They were enjoying summer drinks with friends in the garden after completing all of the manual work on the vines. As he sipped Gavin looked west, and he didn’t like the look of the sky towards the Atlantic.

The warm and sunny evening had a chill to it and just before 8.30pm the wind picked up, and then as Bob Dylan might have once sang, ‘A Hard Rain’ started to fall. Now, Bob was talking about nuclear rain during the cold war, and Gavin was referring to real rain. However, as many of you know, I can never resist the chance to insert a Bob Dylan reference.

It’s an affliction that I suffer with. My eldest child was played Like A Rolling Stone whilst still in the delivery room. The child wasn’t 20 minutes old but I wanted the first song she heard to be a good one. Like I said, it’s an affliction.

Back in Bordeaux, the poor old Quinney family were watching in horror as the hail “came in low, from the side, propelled by fierce winds.” He wrote a 4 piece blog on it where he describes how “the hail had smashed into the grapes on all the west facing rows, splitting and bruising them. Leaves lay all about, with the little icy balls interspersed amongst them. Many leaves still on the vine looked bedraggled, some in tatters. Branches were pockmarked.”

003_Hail_battered_grapes.115454

The next day they had a handle on the full extent of the damage and 50% of the crop was lost. This is bad news for Chateau Bauduc but some of their neighbours lost 100% of the crop. The storm had come in a straight line across from the West and battered everything in its path. Gavin said that “vineyards just 2.5kms west of Bauduc were hardly touched, while those some 2.5kms south of the Château were stripped bare.”

One neighbour had been hit for the 2nd time in three years and like many people ( including the Quinneys ) does not have insurance. It’s a bit like a racehorse – you can insure it but the price is just too prohibitive. Only about 15-20% of vineyards are insured.

Bauduc Hail - 060

The reality of this hailstorm is that there will be much less ‘bulk’ wine to be sold to coops for supermarket wine but also, many of the smaller quality driven vineyards like Bauduc will have very little wine to sell, and it will be interesting to see how the price will be affected. In many cases the market dictates this and you need to make a certain amount of wine to get to a point where you cover costs.

Chateau Bauduc experienced hail in May 2009 and even though 80% of the crop was lost then compared to 50% this year, it is worse in 2013. The reason is that in 2009 it happened when the shoots were new and tender and very little work had been done. This year there had been a huge amount of work including lifting 100,000 vine branches, removing unwanted shoots and 5-6 rounds of mildew spraying. As any business knows, the cost of Sales is a very big part of the whole Gross Profit equation.

Photos courtesy of Gavin Quinney’s wonderful blog.

Don’t forget to log onto the blog at www.rednosewine.com/blog or follow the ranting on Twitter and then there is the Facebook Page.

For anyone who would like more information and can’t make it into the shop, please feel free to contact me at info@rednosewine.com

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Wines From Spain Tasting – A Sherry Adventure

Lustau

I’m like a stuck record in bemoaning that despite its rising popularity across the globe, in mainstream terms at least, sherry remains stuck in the doldrums in Ireland. Things weren’t looking good when I scanned the tasting catalog for the recent Wines From Spain tasting in Dublin either – only a handful of sherries were included. There are green shoots however, as evidenced by the importers who went against the grain and supplemented their listed offerings for the tasting with a range of top-notch sherries.

The stars were without doubt the sherries from Equipo Navazos which are soon to be imported by Wines On The Green / Celtic Whiskey Shop. I was conscious that having built up the Equipo Navazos sherries in my own mind in advance of the tasting that I was sure to be disappointed, but boy did they deliver. La Bota de Palo Cortado No. 34 and La Bota de Amontillado No. 37 ”Navazos” were stunning, the former in particular showcasing a balance of intensity and finesse that almost defied belief. With a retail price of €52.99 a bottle, these two were pricey but still good value in my opinion. At a slightly cheaper price, a lot of enjoyment can also be garnered from both La Bota de Fino No. 35 ”Marcharnudo Alto” (€29.99) and La Bota De Manzanilla No. 42 ”Navazos” (€29.99). The latter afforded me my first opportunity to compare Equipo Navazos sherries from different sacas and butt selections, No.s 32 and 42 both being sourced from the bodegas of Miguel Sánchez Ayala in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. I found the more recent bottling to be quite different from my memories of the No. 32, this one far zestier and more precise than the slightly creamier No. 32; of course bottle age no doubt plays a big role in this too. La Bota de Pedro Ximénez No. 36 “Bota No” (€49.99) was outstanding – ’nuff said.

Wines On The Green / Celtic Whiskey Shop also showed their full range of sherries from Bodegas Baron, another new addition to their portfolio. My favourite of this range was the Manzanilla Pasada Baron (€20.99) although devotees of sweet sherry will delight in their fine array of Moscatel and Pedro Ximénez.

Óscar Bayo from González Byass was on hand to present some of sherries in the Barry & Fitzwilliam portfolio – starting with the well known Tio Pepe (€14.99) and moving onto some of the González Byass VORS sherries – Del Duque Amontillado, Matusalem Oloroso Dulce and Noe Pedro Ximenez (RRPs were not listed but start at approx €20 per half bottle). Having just written about Del Duque last week, I was particularly interested to hear from Óscar that the Del Duque solera is refreshed with the same sherry that is bottled as Tio Pepe. Tasting these alongside each other really highlights one of the more fantastic aspects of sherry; these are essentially the same wines at different stages of their evolution.

Flor

Mitchell & Son had a range of sherries from Lustau on show – La Ina Fino (€17.99) being a welcome re-addition to the Irish market following an absence of a couple of years. For some strange reason, in my sherry-mad fever over the past year or two, I’ve often neglected the high quality sherries of Lustau despite their widespread availability in Ireland. Since I tasted the Vides Palo Cortado from the Lustau Almacenista range at the World Sherry Day event earlier this year, I’ve been feverishly making up for lost time however. Alongside La Ina, I also enjoyed the Península Palo Cortado (€29.99)  - it probably doesn’t have the complexity of the Almacenista range but was very good nonetheless.

Away from the traditional confines of Jerez, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María, it would be foolish to overlook the fortified wine pedigree of the Montilla Morilles DO. Indeed some of the forthcoming releases from Equipo Navazos have been sourced from bodegas in this area. Seamus from Quintessential Wines nearly forgot to bring the Bodegas Alvear Fino En Rama 2008 (RRP not listed but usually around €13-15 per 500ml) along to the tasting but I was certainly glad he remembered to pack it into his car before travelling down from Drogheda – a very pale coloured fino but with far more character than many of the more commercial offerings available. It’ll also allow you to tick all the really nerdy fino boxes as not only is it a dry fortified wine made from Pedro Ximénez, it’s also both single-vintage and en rama. When sherry becomes more mainstream in Ireland, this is the sort stuff you’ll want to be waxing lyrical about to stay one ‘cons step’ ahead of the hipsters.

Note: It’s very difficult to provide an accurate listing of stockists of these sherries in Ireland. In addition to the retail outlets of the importers listed above, many of these sherries will be available in Black Pig (Equipo Navazos, Baron, Alvear amonst others), Redmonds (Lustau), and O’Briens Wines (González Byass and Lustau). (If your shop is not listed here and would like to be, please let me know). (It’s worth checking out the #sherrydirectory listing on twitter too from @CuriousityLiquid)

Image 2 – Sherry barrel with transparent front so visitors can see the natural development of flor (El Pantera, Wikipedia)