Short reviews of three wines from Baggot St Wines

Portillo Malbec €11.19
Fantastic, big, chewy and a little bit fruity. Great value as priced.

Gran Cerdo €13.99
A little thin, we reckoned, got a bit better after being open for a while but not ones the Willies cared for very much. And check out their website – a testament to shocking web design.

Matsu El Picaro €13.99 reduced from €16.99
Oh yes, this is how to do modern (relatively) inexpensive Spanish red. Wonderfully complex with a great finish.

The International Lager Challenge – Grand Final

So it’s come to this – I’ve decided to blind taste the four lager finalists. A quick reminder of how the finalists got here.

Poland – The Zywiec had an easy Semi against the relatively unknown Warka and squeezed past the Tyskie in the regional final.

Germany -  The Krombacher had perhaps the hardest road to the final. I was able to find eight German lagers so the Krom had to win a quarter Final, a Semi Final and a Final. In the QF it handily beat the upstart Warsteiner. The Semi was a tougher affair, with the much fancied Veltins being narrowly dispatched. In the Final, I was tired and elected the winner more or less on a whim.

Czech Republic – The Budvar was always a favourite of mine so I never expected it to meet much opposition on the way to the final. Staropramen was defeated in the Semi and the Budvar came through in a tight contest against a resurgent Pilsner Urquell in the final.

Netherlands – The Grolsch - vanquished the surprisingly popular (in Amsterdam) Bavaria in the SF and then beat the southsiders fave Heineken 5% in the final.

So I asked Herself to pour the four finalists into identical glasses. I expected not to be able tell anything from the visuals – colour, head etc. and thus it proved. BTW I asked Herself to chime in also, she knew what the beers were but she wouldn’t have the same prejudices, preconceptions and outright biases that I maintain. I know they aren’t beer glasses but those were the only glasses I could find four of…

Lager #1
Herself said that she found it “gentle”, I found it delicious and subtle, if I had to describe it, (and I guess I do, given that’s the raison d’etre of the post). If I’m honest, it took until the second round of tastings that I really got this…
Guess – Krombacher.

Lager #2
Hey Mikey, she likes it!* I liked it too. Full falvoured and well balanced. I suspected it wasn’t the Krom or the Bud so..
Guess – Zywiec

Lager #3
Herself preferred #2 and so did I. After the first two this came across as a bit bland.
Guess – Grolsch

Lager #4
Big, bold and beautiful.
Guess – It can only be the Budvar.

I’m batting .500 with 2 out of 4 correct. I mixed up the Grolsch and the Zywiec, speaking of which the Zywiec did not come across well. The Grolsch was pretty good, in third place, and surprised me by kicking some Polish ass.

Which leaves us with the Krom and the Bud, beauty and the beast, and I have to choose between them. Or Do I? Its my ball and I’ll play with it as I see fit. In this case, I’m giving them joint first place.

If you want a delicious but subtle lager, Krombacher is for you. If, at another time, you need a big beefy, full strength lager lager then Budvar is your man.

Apologies for my equivocation, but when in doubt, do both.

* A very popular TV advertisement when I was growing up, on the “other side of the pond”

Private Tasting with Andrew Greenhough

Greenhough jpgLast minute we know but Andrew is in London at the weekend and decided, why not visit the Emerald Isle while I’m this close! So he rang us up and told us he’d be in Galway next Monday, and would love to do a tasting with the good folks of Galway (& beyond!).

So Heres the Deal:

Private Tasting Monday 16th September 8pm in store.

Andrew Greenhough will guide us through a selection of his wines including some vertical tastings of wines like his ever popular Sauvignon Blanc & Pinot Noir. We’ll also have some of his fabulous ‘Hope Vineyard’ wines open on the night including the staff favourite Pinot Blanc.

Entry is €5

For more info contact Tadhg, John or George on 091-533706 or via email


THE WINE BUNCH TASTING – Rioja Week 2 (August 2013)

Rioja W2
Our second Rioja tasting provided an opportunity to sample 12 reservas – aged for at least three years, with at least one year spent in oak, writes Ernie Whalley. Originally French oak barrels were exclusively employed but economics eventually dictated that American oak staves were imported and fashioned into casks in Spanish cooperages. Latterly, many producers have gone back to using French oak, or a mix of French and American. Long aging before release became a tradition – the Marques de Murrieta bodega only released its 1942 Gran Reserva in 1983! Nowadays wines are made for earlier drinking although  “ We age the wine so you don’t need to” is still a USP. Most of you will have spent €24 on a bottle of wine – in a restaurant and I bet the wine was no great shakes. I’d urge you to consider, even if as a once-off treat, buying one of these beauties. Martin and I concurred that no red from Bordeaux or Burgundy at equivalent price would come close. 


Lindes de Remelluri 2009 €21.95 Next Door@Myles Creek, KIlkee, Co Clare; MacGuinness, Dundalk, Co Louth. GOLD
EW: A great balancing act, a carefully trod line between modern and classical styles. Cutting barrel aging to 12 months has helped produce a graceful satisfying wine with abundant fruit. Nuances of spice, figs, plums and blackberries.
MM: Very classy drop with attractive black fruit, plum and fig with subtle oak use. Satisfyingly rich yet fresh palate that makes it all too easy to drink.
Ijalba Reserva 2007 19.95, Drogheda, Co Louth  and nationwide SILVER
EW: Rounded, soft single estate grown fruit; cherries, soft plums raisins and a touch of blackcurrant with subtle ‘garrigue’ wild herbal notes coming in right at the back end. Well-developed, stylish wine. Organic.
MM: Spain’s answer to Chateauneuf-du-Pape with its rich soft slight raisiny style with no single fruit character dominating. Striking label.
Remelluri Reserva 2008, Glasthule, Co Dublin;,, D6; Black Pig, D4; ;, Boyle, Co Roscommon; McCambridges, Galway; www..;  Next Door@Myles Creek, KIlkee, Co Clare; SILVER
EW: Old fashioned, classical kit from Rioja’s oldest estate. Oak and fruit perfectly integrated. Fantastic persistence, goes on and on. Save the second half of the bottle for when the others have gone home and savour in your favourite chair.
MM: Not flashy or obvious but quietly delicious as it sails serenely across the palate offering a satisfying richness and terrific persistence.
Marques de Murrieta Reserva 2007 Finca Ygay, around €24  Vintry, Rathgar D6;, nationwide;, D6 GOLD
EW: Massively rich wine, regal in its power and majesty. Lots of concentration and kaleidoscopic nuances of aroma and flavour but everything perfectly integrated. Seems strange to talk of a €24 wine as ‘outstanding value for money’ but here it is.
MM: Hits the bulls eye with its great richness and persistence and all sorts of nuance of flavour including plum, raisin, coconut, vanilla and liquorice. Fantastic value compared to French classics.


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Top 10 Wines Under £10

We have taken a look at what you, our customers have really enjoyed drinking this year and have put together this top 10 list of our most popular wines under a tenner!

Just in case you would like to try them all (we wouldn’t blame you if you did), we have put all of these wines into a handy 12 bottle case that you can buy and hopefully enjoy!

1.Forrest Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Forrest Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Even if the bottles had wings it couldn’t fly off our shelves any quicker.  NZ Sauvignon Blanc at a great price.  Need we say more?

2. Casablanca Cefiro Pinot Noir 2011

Casablanca Cefiro Pinot Noir 2011

The best value Pinot Noir in Crossgar by a country mile.

3. Guillemarine Picpoul 2012

Guillemarine Picpoul 2012 Pk6

Enchantingly light and delicate with an appley, lemony flavour.  Knocks the socks off Pinot Grigio.

4. Secateurs Red Blend 2011

Secateurs Red Blend 2011 Pk6

The blend is inspired by the wonderful wines of the Rhône but the flavour is pure sunny Swartland and the old vines on Adi’s farm yield fantastic flavours.  A real star of a wine.

5. Boekenhoutskloof Wolftrap White 2012

Boekenhoutskloof Wolftrap White 2012

Quite a full bodied little number with a savoury edge – amazing with roast pork.

6. Grapillon D’or Merlot 2011

Grapillon D'Or Merlot 2011

A gorgeously soft, mellow, easy going wine that we turn to time and again.  Just as delicious with food as it is without.

7. Sartarelli Verdicchio Classico 2011

Sartarelli Verdicchio Classico 2011

Seriously good glass of refreshing white wine that will turn your fish or chicken dinner into a real treat.

8. Artadi Laderas el Seque 2011

Artadi Laderas El Seque 2011

A very versatile and deliciously juicy red from Alicante made mostly from the Monastrell grape with a little Syrah and Mourvedre for good measure.

9. Lascaux Domaine Cavalier Blanc 2012

Lascaux Domaine Cavalier Blanc 2012

The very clever chaps at Ch Lascaux blended a few sun-ripened white grapes together to make this extremely tasty white wine.  It’s quite round and plump and gorgeous with chicken.

10. L’O De Joncier Cotes Du Rhone 2011

''L'O De Joncier'' Cotes Du Rhone 2011

A sort of Côtes du Rhône light.  As easy to drink as water, hence the name.  Light but not insipid, there’s plenty to keep you interested.

Buy our top 10 as a 12 bottle case


RESTAURANT REVIEW – The Tannery, Dungarvan

tannery ext
Until the other weekend I hadn’t been in Dungarvan for twenty years and only then for a lunch stop at a pub I somehow remembered was called Merry’s. Today the town hosts the West Waterford Food Festival, as I was soon to find out, a 72-hour bacchanal revered by food fanatics, especially those  possessing a cast iron constitution.
I had spent the previous evening assembling a portfolio of local knowledge. Dungarvan’s most famous citizen is the late Ernest Walton, the physicist who worked successfully with John Cockcroft on a project called (erroneously) ‘splitting the atom’. Oddly enough, Cockroft was born and educated in Todmorden, the West Yorkshire hill town where my elder daughter resides. Poet laureate Sir John Betjeman wrote a poem,‘The Irish Unionists’s Farewell to Greta Hellstrom’ in which every other stanza concludes with the phrase ‘Dungarvan in the rain’. It’s a very bad poem. Seemingly inaccurate, too, for when I arrived in late afternoon the sun was splitting the stones. 
Dungarvan is a pleasant place. Spruce and chirpy, with a palpable civic pride. It passed all my tests for provincial towns, chief of which are “Does the optician’s window exhibit a pair of glasses I’d actually wear?”  and “Are there at least two pubs where the staff don’t do Trappist monk impressions and where physical assault  by some nutjob is not a given?” The barman at The Moorings patiently outlined the full range of Dungarvan Brewing Co’s beers then gave me a heads-up on the one they’d got ‘on special’ for the weekend, Helvick Gold. My friend and dining companion Blanche Fleur duly arrived, whereupon the talk immediately turned to food, or to be more precise, chefs. Blanche Fleur, who has eaten the food of some of  of the world’s most revered, began by eulogising Paul Flynn, at whose restaurant, The Tannery, we were to dine that night. This would be my first visit though I’d enjoyed Paul’s cooking during his brief stint at La Stampa in Dublin and at a couple of Cookbook Club events. I’ve also cooked recipes from his enjoyable cookbook/autobiography ‘An Irish Adventure with Food’ which we made ‘Cookbook of the Year’ when I was editing Food & Wine. 
At the restaurant, we were welcomed by Maíre, Paul’s wife, who is to aspects of décor and organisation what Paul is to the food. I was unprepared for the clean-limbed minimalistic elegance of the Tannery’s dining space, with its high vaulted ceiling. Pale colours, pristine white table linen and subtle lighting which charmed while putting no distractions between diner and food, very heaven for a plate-focussed person like me.
Blanche Fleur commandeered the squid and mussel soup almost before I’d read the opening line of the menu. I riposted with the raviolo of osso bucco which came with bacon, Little Gem lettuce and what used to be called ‘garden’ peas – maybe they were because The Tannery has a large vegetable garden off an adjacent street complete with a polytunnel capacious enough to hold a small festival. The raviolo was a thing of wonder, the veal moist and succulent, the pasta surrounding it, ethereal. As I knew would be the case it didn’t really matter who’d chosen what as forks and spoons clashing would be the music of the meal as we robbed each other’s plates and bowls. In my picaresque around Ireland’s restaurants I frequently encounter a dish superficially akin to the squid and mussel soup in which the broths fall into three categories : (1) some kind of quasi-Thai treatment  (2) curry soup – generally the least successful, with throat-clutching raw spices (3) a liberal quantity of cheap wine, sometimes laced with an oil-slick of cream. Paul Flynn’s version was simple and honest, just a well-fettled broth, enhanced with spring vegetables and the head-spinning kiss of wild garlic. “For the table” – Blanche’s phrase – we took the Helvic crab crème brûlée, pickled cucumber and melba toast, Paul’s ‘signature dish’, though from the many occasions I’ve seen it (unacknowledged) on restaurant menus, you’d imagine it a celtic classic since Brian Boru was a lad. The ‘trick’ is to use only the best crab meat and get the proportion of crab-to-crème correct, others please copy – and credit.  
In training for the anticipated meat orgy of the following night (we had booked again to eat Paul’s interpretation of ‘nose to tail’ chef Fergus Henderson’s repertoire) I ordered the beef short ribs. These redefined ‘melt in the mouth’, melting somewhere between lips and palate but I’m still not quite sure where. I also relished  the salsify chips, the wild sorrel and the delicate lobster cream that further heightened the overall succulence. Blanche had the quail and foie gras pie, another clever Flynn original, very much in the French mode but given an Irish country twist by the inclusion of a sharply piquant apple jelly. Paul has spoken recently about simplifying his cooking; maybe a red herring because the craft skills and inspiration are still there in bucket loads.
My passion fruit soufflé and sorbet with ginger custard was subject to a compulsory fifteen minute delay but was well worth the wait. The more so because it gave me time to dig into Blanche’s artisan cheese plate, one of the best around. My companion declined coffee. I took two espressos to ensure I kept awake for the subsequent late night postmortem in Downey’s pub.
We initially partnered dinner with a Givry which, though good wine, wilted in facing the onslaught of rich flavours. A switch to a lovely Morellino di Scansano  Poggio Argentiera Gianpaolo 2011, brought more pleasure. Omitting the false start on the wine, all we’d had worked out at a touch under €150. Amid this excess of gourmet piggery I should state that there are cheaper options, starting with a 3-course €30 dinner with some inviting items on the carte.
The Tannery is a superb restaurant, operating on the night with Swiss watch precision for a full house. Plaudits to the young, mainly local, waiting staff. Paul Flynn is, in my opinion, one of the handful of Irish chefs who would be celebrated were he working in any city in the world. He proved his worth in London at a young age and we are indeed fortunate that he chose to leave Nico Ladenis’ empire and return to Ireland. Dungarvan got lucky too, with Paul and Maíre establishing an outstanding destination restaurant in his home town. I’m sure the existence of the Tannery is a major factor in the civic pride I spoke of in an earlier paragraph. Move over Ernie Walton.
The Tannery Restaurant, Town House and Cookery School, 10 Quay Street, Dungarvan, Co Waterford Tel: 058 45420
Food *****
Wine ****
Service ****
Ambience ****½
OVERALL ****1/2


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Gathering in the Wine Geese, O’Dwyer and Reilly’s Wine, and the Clare Valley

I really must get to Susan Boyle’s show, ‘A Wine Goose Chase.’ Mind you, she was showing at the Redhead Convention recently. Hope she showed well!

The Wine Goose story has been told well. It charts the Irish leaving for foreign shores and setting up, with a great deal of success, in the wine trade. Currently there’s an ongoing year long ‘Bring the Wine Geese Home Festival’ at different venues around Cork. It’s all part of ‘The Gathering’.

Indeed. Wheresoever a few of ye gather in my name it will for this year be called a Gathering …

Have a look at Ted Murphy’s book, ‘A Kingdom of Wine – A Celebration of Ireland’s Wine Geese.’ or for a quick run down of a dizzying array of Irish name associations with wine over the ages dip into Turtle Bunbury’s, ‘The Wine Geese & the Grapes of Ireland.’ 

Many will recognise Tomas Clancy’s contribution to the Wine Goose story from the telly and the Sunday Business Post. Indeed Roz Clarke keeps us up to speed with Tomas and his geese on her blog where she tells us that there are only 30 copies of Ted Murphy’s book left but that Tomas is on his way with his own! Roz should know. She is publishing house editor at Onstream Book Publishers. mmm… only 30 left…

This week I was fortunate to be allowed to dip into two ‘Wine Goose’ labels I had never tried before. Both were absolutely fascinating and both are on sale in Ireland.  
Calling all O’Dwyer’s. 
Here’s a story and a great wine for you.
Donal O’Dwyer is from Tipperary. He came across the Sweet Briar vineyard in the Clare Valley, South Austrlia, in 2004 shortly after settling into Australia with his Australian wife and their two children. As with many of the famous wine geese of olden times he bought into the wine trade.
Donal tells us through the O’Dwyer Wines web site that everything about the Sweet Briar site appealed to them. It probably helped that it is in the Clare Valley – as it happens it’s beside Inchiquin Lake (look that one up beside Corofin below our very own Burren!). Donal went to school in Co. Clare. Indeed the Clare Valley is simply filled with European and Irish influences. Just think of Jim Barry’s Armagh and you begin to realise that it produces wines of immense charm and quality. Readers of this blog will know of my admiration for Tim Adams and his wines. Cripes, but I’ve actually cycled the Clare Valley Riesling Trail right past the front door of Sweet Briar. Really nice find.
Along the Riesling Trail in the Clare Valley – this might well have been the sort of view that entranced Donal and Judith! 
Early on Donal made a wise decision in determining that passion is one thing and wine making quite a separate skill altogether. He employed O’Leary Walker to make his wine. Good choice. (The O’Leary half of this brilliant wine making team brings a lot of Irishness into any conversation as his name is David  …  they still won’t allow him to manage the national team!) Let’s face it, good grapes need good wine making to make good wine. Really good grapes with very fine vintners are capable of exceptional wine.
The O’Dwyer label has one wine in its stable. It’s a limited edition (3,300 bottles only) Cabernet Sauvignon. Every O’Dwyer should have one if only to claim its immense quality as one of your own. Each bottle/member of this family has its own number and will cellar comfortably into it’s teenage years. Read the website. Read the reviews and believe them. O’Dwyer Cabernet Sauvignon from the Clare Valley is a worthy and welcome addition to the annals of the Wine Geese.
Keeping their commercial hat on the O’Dwyers have fleshed out their portfolio in Ireland with a (less expensive) neighbours wine. This label is one for the Reilly’s. Have a look at Reilly’s on the web.
The range leads off with a fabulous Reilly’s Watervale Riesling and then delivers excellent, Old Bushvine Grenache Shiraz, a Dryland Merlot, a Dryland Cabernet Sauvignon and Dryland Cabernet Sauvignon. I highly rate the Riesling, Merlot and Old Vine Grenache Shiraz. The labels tells us that the Clare is a dry place and that these wines are produced from very old vines – as much as 90 years old! It takes great skill to work wine magic in a dry area in a warm country without irrigating. The great Tim Adams once showed me how he does it. It’s not easy but the results are fantastic.
A Tim Adams dryland vineyard in the Clare Valley – thirsty looking place!
 The Reilly’s web site tells us a super wine goose story: (indeed it also tells us they have named their latest release ‘Barking Mad’ – love it)
    On the 16th December 1810, Hugh Reilly a shoemaker from Ireland, departed Dublin on the vessel “British Sovereign” arriving at the Prisoner Barracks in Hobart on the 17th March 1841. Passenger number 1507 and convict number 59008 his records are unclear as to why he had been sent to Van Diemens Land. He did however spend the next 15 years there, leaving in 1856 to arrive in the tiny township of Mintaro, in the Clare Valley.
The poor fellow arrived on St Patricks Day!
The Wine Geese story has real beginnings and with the help of modern pioneers like the O’Dwyer family it has no end. It’s an international gathering with a product we can’t make ourselves. Great story.
Loads more info available on Wine Geese at the WineGeese Society 
All the wine above is supplied in Ireland by JOHN O’DWYER,
Christianstown, Newbridge,
Co. Kildare 
                   087 9810 833                        

New to JN: Domaine de Ventenac

The wines of Domaine de Ventenac will be open for tasting at JN this Saturday (21 September). All of our wines from Domaine de Ventenac currently have 15% off.

The Languedoc is an exciting area for wine lovers. The place is positively bursting at the seams with small domains making all sorts of interesting wines. Admittedly a lot of it isn’t the best quality in the world, but if you’re on holiday in the south of France you may find yourself positively bamboozled with choice.

The great thing about the Languedoc is that there’s something for everyone. The problem is overwhelming choice and chequered quality levels. There is little to be found on the labels that will reassure you of the quality inside the bottle and the whole Languedoc area is absolutely vast in terms of wine production. To put it in context, there’s more wine made in the Languedoc than in Australia, Bordeaux, Chile and South Africa combined. The only way to navigate the region is by taste. You just have to taste and taste and taste again until you find something you like, which is where your local friendly independent wine merchant comes in – they’ve done all the hard work for you!

About 10kms north of the beautiful town of Carcassonne, we found Domaine de Ventenac. They’re in an appellation called Cabardès which is nestled in between the mountains of the Massif Central on one side, and the Pyrenees on the other. The climate here is an interesting mix of Mediterranean and Atlantic influences. The Mediterranean brings warmth and sunshine, the Atlantic brings rain and showers which means they have an extraordinary capacity to grow all sorts of thirsty, sun-loving grapes. In order to use the AOC Cabardès, you have to include at least 40% Bordeaux grapes and 40% Mediterranean grapes. An interesting mix indeed. They have the added freedom of stepping outside the strictures of the appellation system, and making wines at Vin de Pays level.

Domaine de Ventenac is an all-male team. Les hommes get to flex their winemaking muscles by shaping the fruits of their land into a diverse range of wines and styles. Their terroir lends itself to a bit of flexibility – they can make clean, simple, fruit-driven wines that exhibit varietal typicity or they can make terroir driven wines that have more complexity and show the unique flavours they develop when grown on their specific vineyard sites.

The wines of Domaine de Ventenac will be open for tasting at JN on Saturday 21 September. All of our wines from Domaine de Ventenac currently have 15% off.

Domaine De Ventenac Colombard Chenin 2012

Dom De Ventenac Colombard Chenin 12 Pk6

A bright, fresh and fruity wine with intense grapefruit and lemon flavours and aromas. The addition of a small proportion of the lesser known Gros Manseng intensifies the citrus freshness of this attractive wine.

GB/NI – shelf price: £9.75 offer price: £8.25
ROI – shelf price: €13.75 offer price: €11.60

Domaine de Ventenac Chardonnay 2012

Domaine De Ventenac Chardonnay 2012 Pk6

The aim here was to create a wine with minerality and freshness balanced with ripe, exotic fruit flavours and velvety texture. The wine is not barrel aged, but does spend some time on fine lees to develop some complexity, body and a slight toasty flavour. These flavours harmoniously blend with the ripe exotic fruit and honey notes of the grapes.

GB/NI – shelf price: £8.99 offer price: £7.60
ROI – shelf price: €12.99 offer price: €11.60

Domaine de Ventenac Merlot 2012

Domaine De Ventenac Merlot 2012 Pk6

A beautifully expressive Merlot showing the attractive flavours we associate with this grape variety. The wine has a ripe, red fruit flavour with some delicate chocolate and orange peel undertones. Drink and enjoy when youthful and bright.

GB/NI – shelf price: £9.75 offer price: £8.25
ROI – shelf price: €13.75 offer price: €11.60

Chateau de Ventenac Reserve de Jean 2011

Chateau Ventenac Res De Jeanne 2011 Pk6

The Château Ventenac range is named differently to signify the change in emphasis. This Reserve de Jeanne wine is an AOC designated wine which means it is created to reflect the Cabardès appellation rather than purely the grape varieties it is made from. The blend comprises 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 35% Syrah and 5% Grenache in accordance with the 40:40 rules of the appellation. The wine is intense and concentrated with ripe red fruit flavours and some warming spicy notes.

GB/NI – shelf price: £10.50 offer price: £8.90
ROI – shelf price: €14.50 offer price: €12.30


The Intl. Lager Challenge – Netherlands – Final 4 (of 4)

Grolsch 5% abv
Heineken 5% abv

So back to the lagers. After drinking lots of lovely ales at the Craft Beer fest, I’m hoping these lagers don’t seem underwhelming. It seems to me (and maybe this is just stating the bleedin’ obvious) but there is much less variety in the world of lagers compared to ales.

I’m trying both of these from cans, for the record.  I’ve never seen the 5% Heino, in this country, in anything but cans and the fancy shmancy Grolsch bottles aren’t that widely available, IMHO. I should say that in most of these rounds I’ve had a fair idea who was going to win. But here, no idea. Touch gloves and come out fighting…

I’m really digging this beer tonight. It’s crisp and clean, refreshing, not a huge finish,but quite moreish. Maybe it’s cos I haven’t had a beer for 48 hours but this is yummy.

Heineken 5%
Hmmm, a little meh tonight. Smooth, with a decent finish, but not much else going on.

Winner – Grolsch.
To be cynical, it probably doesn’t matter which I choose as I don’t think either has a ghost of a chance in the final, but I’m going for Grolsch, it has marginally more cred than the much maligned Vitamin H, seeing as I’ve probably lost all my Ale cred doing all these mass produced lager posts.

The Intl. Lager Challenge – Netherlands – Final 4 (of 4)

Grolsch 5% abv
Heineken 5% abv

So back to the lagers. After drinking lots of lovely ales at the Craft Beer fest, I’m hoping these lagers don’t seem underwhelming. It seems to me (and maybe this is just stating the bleedin’ obvious) but there is much less variety in the world of lagers compared to ales.

I’m trying both of these from cans, for the record.  I’ve never seen the 5% Heino, in this country, in anything but cans and the fancy shmancy Grolsch bottles aren’t that widely available, IMHO. I should say that in most of these rounds I’ve had a fair idea who was going to win. But here, no idea. Touch gloves and come out fighting…

I’m really digging this beer tonight. It’s crisp and clean, refreshing, not a huge finish,but quite moreish. Maybe it’s cos I haven’t had a beer for 48 hours but this is yummy.

Heineken 5%
Hmmm, a little meh tonight. Smooth, with a decent finish, but not much else going on.

Winner – Grolsch.
To be cynical, it probably doesn’t matter which I choose as I don’t think either has a ghost of a chance in the final, but I’m going for Grolsch, it has marginally more cred than the much maligned Vitamin H, seeing as I’ve probably lost all my Ale cred doing all these mass produced lager posts.

The Launch of the new Red Nose Wine – this weekend

We are just over 2 months in our new premises at the Regal Centre and we are finally having a bit of a celebration. This weekend sees the official launch of The Regal Centre and all of the businesses are having promotions, demonstrations and we’ll surely be pouring some wine as well as giving some away.


While the celebrations will be held over the whole weekend (including Sunday), we will be having the main thrust of ours on the Saturday. This will include 2 free wine classes. The word class is probably a bit generous as we will do 30 minute demonstrations but everyone who is there will get a glass in their hand, so its all good.

Free Wine Classes

The first class will start at 2pm and will concentrate on what constitutes a dry wine. When you mean you like a dry wine, is that what you really mean? The second class at 4pm will be more of an Old World versus New World challenge. We will compare similar style wines from both regions and allow you all to ‘taste the difference’.

All classes will have generous amounts of wine to test the theory so bring a driver or take the bus. Alternatively our new neighbour Larry O Keeffe can sell you a bed. In fact, we will have a lot of bottles open throughout the day and we might even dig out some cheese out of somewhere as well. Party on Wayne!

Both classes will start by going through the basics on how to taste ‘properly’ and will do the famous Jelly Bean test. These will be a taster for some wine classes we are planning to hold this Autumn so if you are thinking of doing one, this would be a good litmus test.

Special Offers

We will also have a range of offers including our Super 6 ( up to 20% off ), as well as a new Mix Case that we call ‘When I’m 64’. We are also doing a great in-house special on one of our perennial favorites Domaine des Anges. Up to 25% off.


All people who attend the class of even just come and buy a bottle of wine over the weekend will get a free voucher ( €10 when you spend €50 ). And remember,

‘Life is much too short to drink bad wine”.

CRYSTAL BALL – some thoughts on the future of journalism

I floated this topic on my Facebook page earlier today. It got a number of responses, some agreeing, some contrary. I think it’s worth putting up here as my take on the way things are going with The 4th Estate and those who try to scrape a living writing for it. I really hope I’m wrong.


“In less than 10 years there will be only 2 types of journalist. Bloggers who will write for free or freebies; Staffers, whose duties will be to find bloggers. Those bloggers who can generate loads of ‘likes’ will get the junkets, the prestige trips; newbie bloggers, recent journalism graduates or those who can’t ‘hike the likes’ will be condemned to writing about bottling lines, dehydrated soups and The Tone Deaf Baked Bean Salesman of the Year Award. These guys will receive no remuneration other than the accreditation and (maybe) the return fare.

Subbing, along with tense, syntax and other embellishments will be a thing of the past.”


A Facebook friend, Oisin Davis of Damson Diner, countered with: “If that is going to be the case, then the bloggers will need to demand proper fees for writing and the staff writers will have to get more clever about where they get their next pieces from. I remember days prior to email and blogs when I would promote music shows. At the end of each gig, I would fax out a press release to a load of staffers that I knew were always looking for stories. In each one, I’d wax lyrical about how amazing the gig was, how it sold out and how wild the audience were etc. 9 out of 10 times the writer would simply regurgitate, word for word what I had written. I’d always get a kick out of that, knowing darn well that they were never in attendance themselves. I also remember thinking how disingenuous that was and how that surely could not go on forever. Well a lot of staffers don’t have it so easy any more and we can thank bloggers, in some part anyway, for that.”


I can see where he is coming from. There is still a deal of sloppy journalism about, with much cutting-and-pasting of press releases and some poor writing. This has been brought about in parts by the changing in staffing of newspapers and magazines. For example, years ago newspapers used to staff for the peaks. The logic was: “If, simultaneously, we have a factory fire in Glasnevin, a flood in Templeogue, a lottery winner in the Liberties and a mad axeman running amok in Ballsbridge, how many journalists and photographers do we need to cover these stories?” Nowadays it’s “How quickly can one guy and his digital Nikon compact get round” or “Hang about, we’ll get the skinny on the web”. The same publications now staff for the troughs.


This was my riposte: “Oisin, there is no such thing as a ‘proper fee’ any more. Rates are shrinking year on year. It is now virtually impossible for anyone to make a full-time living as a freelance journalist and the few I know who do are knocking themselves into the ground. Freelancers are soft targets too, when the time for editorial budget cuts comes round.

In the press, more and more news comes via agencies; more and more news and features are syndicated. It’s hard enough to earn a crust, even without bloggers getting in on the act.

Bloggers are a different kettle of fish. For them writing is a hobby or, at best, a secondary income. There are no qualifications for blogging other than the ability to put up a WordPress page. There is no requirement to become an expert in your desired specialisation and no need to be able to write to deadlines. All you need to blog is an opinion and a keyboard. After that we are in ‘Stream of Consciousness Land’.

I would go as far as saying that when it comes to imparting information in an interesting manner bloggers (with a few, very few, honourable exceptions) are utterly inept.

Unfortunately, a couple of years ago, the PR industry (I won’t grace it with the term ‘profession’) who also have pretty low standards, suddenly discovered bloggers. More and more of them now appear at every bunfight. For the PR mob it’s probably enough to see ‘Yesterday I went to the Clonagloomy bubblegum yoghurt launch; I tasted some and it was lovely” on a dozen blogs. I don’t think I’ve ever seen on a blog a proper critique of a product and of course there won’t be because the invitations will cease and the bloggers know it. And, in their wake, will come more bloggers, ready and willing to write for a free trip and to see their names in print.”


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Food & Wine Tasting


We’re delighted to welcome back Peter Logan of Logan Wines this month. In conjunction with our neighbours in Kappa Ya Japanese Restaurant, Peter will be guiding us trough a selection of wines which will be paired with some great Japanese and Japanese inspired dishes. Tickets for this wonderful evening’s food & wine tasting are €35 per person or €60 for 2 people.  Tickets can be order via email, or over the phone on 091-533706.

Spaces are limited.

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

Ridge Estate – Are these the Perfect Wines?

The wines of Ridge Estate (including Monte Bello 2010) will be open for tasting at JN on Saturday 28 September. Both the Ridge Geyserville 2011 and the Ridge Lytton Springs 2011 have a 15% discount

How would you describe your perfect wine? Delicious flavour? Ripe, sweet fruit perfectly balanced with refreshing acidity? Complexity – a wine that develops as you drink it, that captures your interest to the bottom of the glass? A wine that will mature and develop over the years? Moderate alcohol? A wine that has been made in ways that have minimal environmental impact and made with as few additives as possible?

If the above factors are on your wishlist, then if you’re not already familiar with Ridge, you might want to make their acquaintance.

Ridge is based in the Santa Cruz Mountains of Sonoma County in California, a dream location for growing grapes. It’s warm and sunny enough to ripen even Cabernet Sauvignon reliably, but high and cool enough to keep things from getting overripe. Grapes, not unlike humans, fare a lot better with a bit of sunshine but they need to be cool enough to sleep comfortably at night. Imagine how relaxed and healthy we would be if our weather were so accommodating…

Paul Draper has been winemaker at Ridge since 1971. Draper is a graduate philosopher, not a scientist, nor a graduate of winemaking college. Draper’s humble yet incredibly skilful winemaking has earned him the accolade of Winemaker’s Winemaker 2013 – a peer reviewed award that demonstrates the incredibly high esteem in which he is held within the industry.

“At Ridge we begin with respect for the natural process that transforms fresh grapes into wine, and for the 19th century model of guiding that process with minimal intervention. When you have great vineyards that produce high-quality grapes of distinct, individual character, this approach is not only environmentally and socially responsible, it’s also the best way to consistently make fine wine.”

Draper uses all the knowledge available to him to ensure his grapes mature successfully and his wines are the best possible quality. There is a very well equipped laboratory at Ridge and seriously high tech monitoring going on in the vineyards. Nothing escapes the notice of the Ridge team! Having said that, the vast majority of their decisions are based on continual tastings, not formulas or scientific measurements (which requires a fine palate and years of experience).

The team make red and white wines – Chardonnay is the white grape of choice and their top red is a Cabernet-based blend of traditional Bordeaux varieties. The Lytton Springs and Geyserville sites produce the most wonderful Zinfandel blends we have ever tasted. Even the wines that are ready to drink on release will age beautifully for years.

As a Ridge customer you only have to read the front label to see exactly what makes up their blends – something that many winemakers prefer to keep secret. In the spirit of full disclosure, they are now adding an ingredients list to their back labels. It’s an interesting move that is causing a bit of a stir in wine circles. There are many additives and techniques that have been sanctioned for use in winemaking and they can be used to adjust colour, tannin, alcohol and various other things. For winemakers with less than ideal fruit quality, they can be a godsend. Or if you’re making wine that has to fit a certain style, they may be indispensable. For Ridge, many additives and techniques are too invasive and would destroy some of the inherent fruit quality they have so carefully cultivated. An ingredients list on the back of a Ridge label will read something like this, “hand picked sustainably grown grapes, indigenous yeasts, naturally occurring malolactic bacteria, oak from barrel ageing and minimum effective SO2.” It takes a great deal of skill to make winemaking sound this simple!

Are these the perfect wines? You will have to judge for yourself… the wines of Ridge Estate will be open for tasting at JN on Saturday 28 September. Both the Ridge Geyserville 2011 and the Ridge Lytton Springs 2011 have a 15% discount

Ridge Geyserville 2011

GB/NI – shelf price: £26.95 offer price: £22.90
ROI – shelf price: €35.70 offer price: €30.00

Ridge Lytton Springs 2011

GB/NI – shelf price: £26.95 offer price: £22.90
ROI – shelf price: €35.70 offer price: €30.00

The much sought after Monte Bello 2010 will also be open in our free Ridge tasting on Saturday 28th September.

Rhône Wine Week

(C) Inter-Rhône

(C) Inter-Rhône

Autumn is here, our favourite season, and to celebrate we’re plotting and planning a Rhône Wine Week. A celebration of the wines of the Rhône Valley. It’s in the early stages at the moment, but is going to be a country-wide event. You can find out more on the dedicated website

There will be tastings, competitions, dinners, with chances to meet the wine-makers and hear from them first hand, and if you follow the twitter account @RhoneWineWeek or like the facebook page you’ll be kept up to date with the latest events as and when they are added to the calendar.

So light the fire, embrace the season, think red, think Côtes du Rhône.

InterRhone Think Red

Happy Wynnsday: Cabernet & Riesling rather nicely discounted


We said we’d discount some nice wines if we got 2,000 Likes on our Facebook page.

While we’re not quite there yet, here are two wines from Wynns Coonawarra Estate, both nicely discounted.

The first is the Coonawarra Estate Cabernet 2005 (down to €16.95 from €26.95), a gorgeous, maturing Cabernet comes from one of the world’s great regions for the grape. It is round, smooth and generously concentrated without loosing its balance and has gorgeous fruit flavours of dried currants, wood-spices and a touch of the famous eucalyptus!

The second is the Riesling (down to €9.95 from €15.95), a delicious, also maturing nicely. It’s in great condition showing ripe apple skin and lime cordial flavours over a bright, balanced and refreshing texture.

A bit about Coonawarra

Coonawarra, an Aboriginal word for ‘honeysuckle’ – is a small region five hours drive from Melbourne and fours from Adelaide.

Renowned for its red soil or “Terra Rossa”, the Coonawarra ia low, cigar-shaped ridge 15 kilometres long and 1 kilometre wide.

It is this soil, in this location, that makes it one of the best terroirs in Australia, particularly for Cabernet Sauvignon. And while Cabernet is the small area’s flagship grape, other varietals are getting a look in too, with superb wines made from Shiraz, Riesling and Chardonnay.

A bit about Wynns

Wynns dates back to 1861 when John Riddoch ran sheep through his 700 ha property. It wasn’t until 20 years later that vines were planted.

The area never really established itself, not until the Wynns purchased the property in 1951 and began using the term “estate” to denote wine that actually came from the property on the label.

Wynns Coonawarra Estate now owns around 70% of the vineyards planted on the terra rossa soil with the oldest vines.

Wynns Coonawarra Estate wines are known as the benchmark from the Coonawarra region.

Sue Hodder, Chief Winemaker, is well aware of the legacy and tradition of both Wynns and Coonawarra.

“I am well aware of the responsibility I have for maintaining the quality that represents Coonawarra as a region as much as they represent Wynns and I am the custodian of a great winemaking tradition”.

Irish Craft Beer (and Cider) fest – report

This time last year I was in the middle of an ill advised beer-free (but not booze-free) period when I attended the Beer and Cider fest. That time, all I drank was cider. This time I wanted to drink all the beer. Alas, the only night I could go was Thursday, and I had work the next day and a stag in Killarney to deal with the following night, so moderation was required.

Me and m’colleague NP, arrived early at 5-30 and had the run of the place for a while. We  did a circuit of the stands and had lots of interesting chats with the various punters manning the pumps, apart from one, but more of that anon.

I kept a record of the ales sampled but not any tasting notes so the following is from memory…

1. McGraths IPA
Lovely hoppy ale, well balanced.

2.Galway Bay Voyager IPA
Tasty and strong as balls. Didn’t try the Full Sail on draught unfortunately, as I love it in bottles.

3. Kentucky IPA
Had it once before on draught and it was super this time too. Tasted the bourbon ale but found it a little sweet for my palate.

4. Kinnegar Devil’s Backbone Amber Ale
Had a nice chat with the lovely people here and decided on the amber ale as a break from the IPAs. Very smooth and easy drinking. NP had the Rustbucket Rye Ale, which I also sampled, and it was fantastic – I love this style of ale. 

5. Trouble Brewing Deception Golden Ale
An old favourite of mine, yummy on draught. They had various funky beers but I wimped out and played it safe. 

6. Franciscan Well IPA
A 7.5% beast, I left it ’til last on purpose. Big, hoppy, and the last nail in my coffin.

The only disappointment of the night was that we didn’t manage to sample any of the 8 Degrees brewing beers. I particularly wanted to try the Cyclone IPA on draught and the limited edition Amber Ella. However, on our first circuit of the hall, we waited in vain to be noticed at the 8 Degrees taps for a few minutes and eventually left thirsty. We returned during the evening not once, not twice but three times. However on each occasion we were roundly ignored by the gentlemen behind the stand, who on at least two of the four visits appeared to be chatting idly with a single individual. Perhaps it was because he was on his own, or perhaps because he didn’t like the look of us (he wouldn’t be the first), who knows? At every other stand we were received graciously, and they patiently listened to my inane, and frequently ill-informed opinions on their proudly produced ales, and were offered many samples and tasters.

I thought perhaps I was being paranoid, but after I left NP stayed on and returned a fifth time to the 8 Degrees stand. Still no dice, (or beer). It’s a pity, as I really like their beers and would have liked to sample them on draught.

Next year, I’m not going to plan any other events on this weekend and I’m going to literally drink all the beers.  By the way, I’m sure the ciders were fab, they were great last year but I had to narrow my focus.