May 3rd, 2013
A great work of literature is a wonderful thing, and always a pleasure when you get to visit where one was set, or to possibly re-enact it, in as much as modern life allows. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra wrote about Alonso Quijano and his fantasied alter ego Don Quixote, the wandering knight.
Last week I became Don Quixote and with a fellow wine importer in tow to play the part of Sancho Panza ( Don Quixote’s travel companion ), we flew into Barcelona to do a 2,200KM wine trip through Spain. We would end up in La Mancha but not quite yet. This article will be in two parts and will document a journey through cold, sunny and rainy Spain.
Our flight from Cork landed on Sunday into Barcelona airport and the Spanish equivalent of Sky Sports messed up our plans to watch Barcelona play football that night ( the game was moved ). So we drove directly from the airport in our rented Volkswagon and with the aid of our trusty GPS ( who is called Margaret ) towards Pamplona, the city of the bulls.
Pamplona is Basque country and is also in the region called Navarra. It is a busy stop for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. For those not in the know, this is the way of St James, an ancient pilgrimage from France to Compostela on the West coast of Northern Spain. Pamplona is also known for the running of the bulls and was made famous by another well known literary figure, Ernest Hemingway.
When we eventually reached Pamplona and our hotel, we raced the sunset in order to try get a beer in the famous Plaza del Castillo. It was a race well run, but the sun beat us and we instead found ourselves inside Café Iruña, made famous in Hemingway’s first big book, “The Sun Also Rises”. Now, with the well-earned cold beer in hand after the four-hour drive, the series subject of tomorrow’s journey could be discussed.
I won’t bore you with tales of a very strange Tapas ( or Pintxos ) bar we ate in. Suffice to say we had to eat our starters on one table and our main courses at another. The waiter was as confused as we were but the average wine quenched our thirst and we suffered on for our art.
The next morning we headed into the countryside, for you do not find too many vines in big towns and cities. The Navarra wine region lies between Rioja and the French border to the northeast. The foothills of the Pyrenees descend towards Navarra from the north and the Ebro River runs up from the south into Rioja to the west. The region can be broken into 5 different wine locations, Valdizarba, Tierra Estella and Baja Montana to the north. Ribera Alta in the middle and Ribera Baja in the south.
One of our most popular wines comes from Navarra, Pago de Cirsus. It is from the Ribera Baja in the south. We were rummaging around in the north west and came across a couple of great estates. I can’t say too much now as they may be following my blog ( illusions of grandeur ) and my bargaining position would not be strengthened by then knowing I was interested. It’s a bit like being a teenager again. “Does she like me?” “Yes, she does”. “But does she Like Like me?”
We also came across a wine fountain in Navarra. It is beside a very famous monastery in Ayegui on the Camino. Right beside the path that the pilgrims walk is a fountain that has two taps. One serves wine and one serves water. It is free to pilgrims and we were told that in high season, they go through 3,000 litres of wine a month, which is 4,000 bottles or nearly 7 pallets of wine. So if you find yourself on The Way of St James, you know where to get a free drink.
We headed south to Pago de Cirsus and saw their spectacular castle ( man made by the film producer owner ). It is all part of a luxury hotel complex nestled among the vines. Its kind of in the middle of nowhere and boasts a very well regarded restaurant which we had to refuse lunch in (Sancho Panza has not forgiven me yet ). The fancy digs kind of goes against the price point of the wines which are definitely among the best value wines we sell.
Onwards and westwards we went, towards the medieval village of Lagardia in the Rioja Alavesa. There are three regions in Rioja, Alta, Baja and Alavesa. All have very different characteristics and Alavesa is widely believed to be the best, but some of the winemakers argued that the best region is where Alavesa borders the Alta.
Such is the importance of Rioja in the wine selling world that we were scheduled for two nights here and we had meetings set up with existing and potential new suppliers. One of these new winemakers ( who we have been courting for a while ) told is the best French wine is made in Rioja. This refers to the fact that is was the French who came here after phylloxera had wiped out the majority of French vines in the middle of the 19th century.
The wine business was of course well established in Rioja, but the French introduced oak which is a big component of Rioja wines today. The classical definition talks about Joven, Roble, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva wines. These are all determined by how much time the spend in oak and also how much time they spend in bottle before being released. The more oak, the more money in general terms, but Gran Reservas are in many cases over oaked, in my opinion.
What is interesting to see is that many of the new generation like to experiment outside the official rules, and thus making much more interesting wines. A French wine maker called Tom Puyaubert is one who is very experimental. He make the Exopto wines that we have been selling for about six months. I love when winemakers experiment. It makes for much more interesting wines.
While this has been a whirlwind tour of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza’s wine adventure, I will continue in Part 2 and recant tales of a crazy winemaker in Rioja, a hilltop sunset vineyard picnic, a list wallet and phone as well as a very scary drive into Valencia in the worst rain I have ever seen. Hasta Luego Amigos.
April 11th, 2013
We are delighted to introduce our newest vineyard to the Red Nose Wine stable of stars.
Kanu is the Mythical Bird of Promise and we have taken in 5 of their wines ( to start ).
The Classic Dry White and the Rifle Range Red offer great value and punch well above their weight at €11.99
The Sauvignon Blanc gives fresh, zesty, green fruit flavours; whilst the Chenin complements with tangy tropical fruit, green melon and honeysuckle. The Rifle Range Red is an easy drinking Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend offers tantalising aromas of biltong, dark chocolate and Christmas spices on the nose. Soft supple tannins and lingering mocha notes make this an amazingly accessible wine that combines the elegance of old world style wines, with new world fruit.
The Chenin Blanc comes in at €12.49 and it has a rich, welcoming nose with tropical nuances, freshly quartered guavas and undertones of green nettle. On the palate it is tropical, underpinned by a lively acidity. The wine creates a broad mid-palate, highlighted by hints of winter melon and even a trace of streaky minerality, leaving a lingering finish.
The Shiraz (€13.99) is concentrated, brooding with cherry black rim. It has a multi-layered nose: bitter chocolate, Marcello cherries, stewed rhubarb, milled pepper and rich mocha tones; all accentuated by a subtle vanilla. A perceptive sweetness follows onto the palate, highlighted by black fruit and touches of allspice. A sleek, muscled wine, well balanced acidity, layered richness and a long finish.
If you really want to treat yourself the GSM ( Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre ) will blow your socks off. If you like Chateauneuf du Papes style wines, this might be for you ( for less money ). The deep ruby colour hints at the flavours to come… aromas of dark chocolate, juicy red berries and herbaceous notes tempt the nose whilst on the pallet mulberry and blackcurrant compote flavours balance out the well-structured tannins. It has spent 18 months in French barriques which gives a depth of flavour and elegance to this multidimensional wine. If this was a European wine it would be €30-€40 but its a snip at €19.99.
All the wines are available online or in the shop – a lot of them are open at the moment including the GSM so be quick…
We also came across some great videos on their website including a great one of the sound of wine fermenting
There was also another one from the harvest.
April 5th, 2013
What did you give up for lent? I gave up caffeine, sugar and bread. It was part of this regime I am partaking in with a bunch of lunatic warriors I started training with last summer. We swing Kettle Bells and do Crossfit challenges and all seem to share a slight addiction to pain, but with lots of gain. I can’t wait for my cup of coffee on Easter Sunday, served in bed ( hint to no one in particular ).
I was supposed to give up alcohol as part of it, but decided that coffee was enough of a sacrifice. I’m not super human, some times I barely even feel human, but that’s a different article. I do know that some people did give up the drink ( does wine really count? ) for lent. However, your day is nearly here. Easter Sunday will see you ready to enjoy a very nice bottle with the dinner. I am here to offer you guidance and support.
Easter offers a great excuse to trade up and enjoy the finer wines with your dinner. We will be closing the shop on Good Friday, so you’ll need to be in Thursday and Saturday to buy your special wines. While chocolate can of course be matched to wines with varying levels of success, I think lamb is a more suitable delicacy to pair up for that Easter Sunday dinner.
Lets blame the Greeks for everything
Lamb has some classic pairings that are already engrained in the wine vocabulary. There are a number of reasons for this. Going back thousands of years, to ancient Greece and into old France, Spain and Italy, the most popular meat was lamb. The sheep often grazed in the vineyards so the pairing was almost instinctive. Go to Greece (or even your local kebab shop) today and there is quite a lot of lamb on the menu. But add to this practicality, and the fact that the flavour of the lamb lends itself perfectly to wine.
I have my own favourite combinations when matching wines to lamb. It often depends on the cut of lamb and how it is prepared. If money is no object, then I would suggest a Pauillac from the Medoc region of Bordeaux. If your budget can’t stretch to a 1st growth Château Mouton Rothschild or even a 5th growth Lynch Bages, then there are plenty of substitutes.
There are lots of really good value Bordeaux wines out there and it is the dry tannic nature of the Cabernet Sauvignon that reacts so well with the lamb. In fact we just took in three new Bordeaux’s ranging from €11.99 to €13.99. But why Cabernet and why Bordeaux?
For some it is the minty herbal nature of Cabernet that pairs so well with the lamb, and others think this is a load of rubbish. Pinot Noir tends to show off different sides of the lamb, so if it is not overly lean, I think the Pinot Noir can offer some great flavours.
A good rule of thumb is that a chewier meat should be matched to a chewier wine, and by this I mean a younger tannic wine. The meat will make the wines seem smoother than they would be on their own. Other wines that go with Lamb for much the same reasons are Spanish Rioja’s and Italian Chianti or Sangiovese varieties. The really great news is that I have a huge selection of all of the above at all prices.
If you wanted to get some great value for your purchases and were willing to step off of the road a little and go to a region that is not quite as famous, you can really do well. I’m talking about swapping your Rioja for a Navarra or for a Valencia. Try a Tuscan Sangiovese instead of a Chianti. You’d be surprised how good they can be. One of my best wines is a humble Cotes du Rhone but it is made by the man who makes my Chateauneuf du Papes and it punches way above it weight. Grapes find their expression in both the place and the winemaker’s guiding hand.
What about those white drinkers
For the white wine drinkers, I think you will be fine if you go with a heavier style wine. The Archange wine from Domaine des Anges is a perfect example of a full bodied oaked wine that would sit wonderfully with lamb. You could also try an oaked Chardonnay from Burgundy or possibly even the white wines from Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s estate in Provence, Chateau Miraval. Brad and Angie have recently gotten involved themselves.
As mentioned the last time, we are finalizing plans for another wine course. This time we are looking at a few different options. We plan to repeat the classic 5 week course on a Thursday night but we are also looking at a slimmed down ½ day version, more than likely at the weekend.
Depending on interest, we have also investigated the possibility of some Magical Mystery Tours. This basically means a mini bus, a foodie destination with lots of wine to match. You do the drinking, we organize the driving. We can’t do it if we don’t get the numbers, so get in contact and express an interest ( if you have one ).
In the last article I mentioned Cheltenham and the few horses I chance every year. I’m delighted to tell you all that I ended up winning the Dalys Bar tipsters competition much to the horror of some of the more seasoned tipsters. I owe some of my genius selections to a Clonmel man living in Twickenham. Thanks Nigel.
For anyone who would like more information and can’t make it into the shop, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”
April 5th, 2013
“It’s been a long time since Rock’n’Roll” – Sing that in a high pitched voice and insert a Jimmy Page guitar riff and you have a classic Led Zeppelin song. While I have in fact recently listened to some Rock’n’Roll on my new turntable ( Christmas present ), I am referring to the fact that it has been a long time since I presented an article for your delectable critique.
The post budget blues
You may have thought I have been curled up in a ball in a dark room rocking to and fro in shock from the 41% excise duty increase in December. Tempting as that solution might be, I decided to focus on improving on the great gains we made in 2012. Onwards and upwards and the search for newer wines is in full flight. As I write this three new wines arrived into the shop today, and there are loads more on the horizon.
I have been very busy looking at every wine we currently stock and seeing if it has a future or not. There are many criteria needed for a wine to stay in the Red Nose family and many will not survive but the good news is that makes room for more wines. These are strange times we live in and when you are asking people to part with money, you really have to consistently over deliver on the quality and value offering.
With that in mind, this last month saw us throw out the old to make way for the new. Our Pick-A-Dot Sale cleared out a lot of wines at up to 50% off and this allows room for the newer wines that have been exciting us to shine. There is still a little bit left, but not a lot. To make up for it, we have introduced a new mix case for €50 that is proving very popular.
WIne courses and dinners
Last October we held our first wine course and it was a huge success. After 5 weeks of tasting, swirling, spitting, swallowing and listening to me waffle on about wines, we held our last night in the StoneHouse restaurant’s private dining room and matched their fantastic tasting menu to some great wines.
The good news is that we are currently finalizing plans for another wine course. This time we are looking at a few different options. We plan to repeat the classic 5 week course on a Thursday night but we are also looking at a slimmed down ½ day version, more than likely at the weekend. Depending on interest, we have also investigated the possibility of some Magical Mystery Tours. This basically means a mini bus, a foodie destination with lots of wine to match. You do the drinking, we organize the driving.
If any of you are interested in Top End Bordeaux wines, you might want to get in contact with me. I have been offered some seriously good value on some of the very best wines in the world. I am talking about the top end wines for putting down, but at a fraction of the normal price. We are still talking about €30 a bottle and a minimum case purchase. Contact me directly at email@example.com if you want more details.
Smelling Swooshing and Spitting
A wine merchants calendar after the busy period that was Christmas is busier than you would think. Its not all accounts and stocktaking though. Traditionally this time of year we get invited to all manner of tastings. Last week I took the train to Dublin and was let loose on 256 wines from an importer I work with. Smell, Look, swish, inhale and spit. And so it went – whites first and then another lap of the hall to get the reds in. Experience has taught me to leave those big Barolos until the end. One is almost tempted to forget to spit those wines.
At this stage we import over 90% of our wines directly from small, large and in-between vineyards from all over the world, so the Irish trade tastings are not going to get you those real value driven wines or those little magical small vineyards that make this job so special. The do however serve a purpose and some of our favourite Italian wines ( such as Allegrini ) come via this route.
Later this month I am flying to Germany for the best Wine Trade show in Europe – ProWein. This will have vineyards from all over the world showing off their wares in 8 massive halls in the vast and very impressive Dusseldorf Messe convention centre.
Ireland really missed a trick not building one of these during the boom years. The Germans may not know much about debt relief but they sure know how to organize a trade fair. I’ve been to shows in France, Italy and London and this is by far the best. Hopefully, I’ll be writing about the wines I found soon
Are there Horses in Spain?
I think that Spain will become more and more important in the Irish wine world. It still has loads of great value regions that are unknown and very well priced. The punters in Cheltenham always look for value and sometimes a great Bordeaux at €30 can be great value and a €9 special offer wine is a waste of money. It is all about perspective. But I think regions like Navarra and Valencia offer true value when compared to Rioja and Ribero and we hope to find more at ProWein.
By the time this article goes to press, Cheltenham will be over and I’ll know how much value I managed to squeeze from the Tipsters draw in Careys and Dalys. In my experience value and Cheltenham do not go hand in hand. However I still smile when I remember shouting War of Attrition home in the Gold Cup. I met Mouse Morris about 6 months before and he said he thought the horse was a superstar. My little ante post wager came in at very nice odds. Let’s hope my trip to ProWein brings home a few winners as well.
For anyone who would like more information and can’t make it into the shop, please feel free to contact me at href=”mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org”>email@example.com
“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”
March 12th, 2013
A great little mix case of 6 wines is now on Sale in house and online. We listened to our customers and these are among the wines they wanted to see on offer. We picked 3 Reds & 3 Whites from some of our favourite vineyards. Normally €63, this is your for only €50.
One of our best selling red wines comes from the Languedoc and the Gassac family of wines. The Gassac Classic Red is just that. A Classic at a great price.
Cuvee Jean Paul Rouge – Staying the south of France but moving over to the Vaucluse this is a little cracker that has proved a party favourite since it arrived.
58 Guineas Claret is a great introduction to Bordeaux. A Merlot dominant blend ( Cab Sab is the other variety).
The sister to the Classic Red, the Gassac Classic White is for the white wine drinker who likes a little minerality and complexity in their wines. Another firm favourite, especially among the Sauvignon Blanc lovers.
The Spanish wine revolution goes on and this little cracker from the Penedes region has made many a happy party happier. Mont Marcal make a great Cava but their white wine is a little star.
For all of you who enjoy the holidays in Portugal, the Montaria Blanco offers a more complex and food friendly wine. If you want to test your dinner guests with “Guess the Grape”, this is the one that will win you the money.
Get this mix case while its hot. We will change the wines in the future but for now… enjoy.
February 7th, 2013
You’ve got to pick a Dot or Two
You’ve got to pick a dot or two. Fagin would be in for the new Sale that we have just launched in Red Nose Wine. The theory is simple and I shall now attempt to keep it simple in my elaboration of the said same theory.
We are making room for lots of new wines we are currently sourcing and are having a bit of a cull. We have 3 levels of the SALE and these are represented by 3 different dots – Red, Blue & Green. In a nutshell, if you’re bottle has a Red dot, then its 50% off – if it has a Blue dot, then its 30% off and if it has a green dot, its 20% off.
Old Bordeaux – New New Zealand
Some of the wines included are 2000 Bordeaux Medoc, New Zealand Pinot Noir, Sauvignon, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. There are some SUPER Loire Valley wines including biodynamic Bourguiel and Sancerre. We have Australian Shiraz, Riesling and Chardonnay as well some great Spanish reds and whites. There is some serious Italian Pinot Grigio on offer as well.
This is just a sprinkling of what’s in the sale and it is while stocks last. Call in and see the whole selection. Many of them are open to taste. We are not putting them online because there really is only small amounts of the wines, but if anyone wants a list to put a mix together, we can send it to them via email and if they’re lucky their favourite wines will still be there.
Get them when they’re cheap !!!
December 12th, 2012
December 4th, 2012
We know that at Christmas people spoil themselves with their wines, so why not save money and spoil yourself. Our Christmas Cracker Case has something for everyone and includes Red, White, Rose and lots of Bubbles. Top-sellers from France, Spain, Italy, Chile and Australia with both Cava and Prosecco for the bubbles.
Normally this case would cost €168.38 but we have it on offer for only €140, a saving of €28.38
1 x Borgo Magredo Spumante Prosecco
1 x Poggiobello Pinot Fruilano
1 x Gregorina Sangiovese
1 x Chateau Bauduc S-Blanc Bordeaux
1 x Feudo Paradiso Organic Sicilian Red
1 x Mont Marcal Reserva Cava
1 x Pont de Gassac Red
1 x Poggiobello Merlot
1 x Domaine des Anges Rose
1 x Bleasdale Mulberry Tree Cab-Sab
1 x Santa Alicia G-Reserva Chardonnay
1 x Langmeil Barossa GSM blend
Normal retail price combined €168.38.
The mix case is also available in a 6 pack version for €75
November 30th, 2012
Our brand new Budget Buster mix case see’s some of our favourite wines all together in a nice box.
There is great value in the wine world if you know where to look for it. That is a job we have become very good at in Red Nose Wine so we are delighted to be able to offer this great value Budget Buster mix case of wine. We’ve specially selected reds, whites and Rose from France, Spain, Italy, and Chile. A great present this Christmas, for that special someone or for yourself.
Normally this case would cost €105.38 but we have it on offer for only €85, a saving of €20.38
1 x Moulin de Gassac Classic Blanc
1 x Moulin de Gassac Classic Rouge
1 x Mont Marcal Blanco
1 x Mont Marcal Tinto
1 x Mirabello Pinot Grigio
1 x La Granja ‘Pig’ Tempranillo
1 x Grandiose Sauvignon Blanc
1 x Santa Alicia Reserva Rose
1 x Santa Gloria Merlot
1 x Cuvee Jean Paul Rouge
1 x Cuvee Jean Paul Blanc
1 xRapido Garganega
Normal retail price combined €105.38
The mix case is also available in a 6 pack version for €45
November 19th, 2012
Firstly, thank you very much Sam for taking the time to come over to Ireland and in particular Red Nose Wine to help us launch your wonderful wines on the Irish market.
Q1 – I will try and get the obvious questions out of the way quickly. What was the first wine that you had that changed your perception of wine from a commodity to something more profound
A Gevrey Chambertin drank in Lausanne Switzerland – it was like Gods hand came out of a cloud and changed the course of my life.
Q2 – What is the greatest moment you enjoyed with a bottle/glass of wine, and where was it? I always find surroundings & company can have a big influence on this.
The first time we served our own wine at a dinner party to a bunch of my thoroughly disgraceful and undeserving friends – a great wine like that is wasted on them frankly.
Q3 – If you were a singer instead of an actor, who would you be and why?
Brian Wilson without the psychedelic drugs thank you very much, although Carl was the better singer.
Q4 – If you were to have written any song, what would it be and why?
This week I would say ‘Don’t talk, put our head on my shoulder’ a wonderful version I recommend is by Anne Sofie von Otter and produced by Elvis Costello.
Q5 – When I lived in France, I was told that after people’s flirtations with other regions, all roads eventually lead to Burgundy, and Pinot Noir. Where does Central Otago fit into this odyssey?
When you have got to Burgundy, stay on the same road and it will eventually bring you to Central Otago, and everything we do originates from Burgundy – vines, methods we use to grow those vines and to make the wines subsequently – it all comes from Burgundy, but that wine take a very subtle change of expression at the other end of the world.
Q6 – Can you tell us about your latest film project, and did you know that your co-star already has a connection with Red Nose Wine. Have you tasted Domaine des Anges - Cillian Murphy’s father in law make this wine?
Yes, I am doing a 6hr project for BBC 2 called Peaky Blinders alongside your man from Cork Cillian Murphy. A fellow wine enthusiast
Q7 – Why weren’t you in Lord of The Rings?
Actually I was unavailable – no loss for them.
Q7 – What are your plans for Two Paddocks long term? Are you looking to spread the good news all over the world or just the lucky countries, like Ireland?
There is not enough to go around the world but I am always happy to see it in places where people truly love wine, so more of that please.
Q8 – Lastly, you were born in Ireland, and lived for a few years up North before leaving for New Zealand. With this strong connection to Ireland, and your great standing back in New Zealand, could you possibly ask that the All Blacks take it easy on us the next time we play them. The last one really hurt.
I’m always happy to please but now you have gone too far.
Thank you very much, and it is a pleasure to represent such a truly wonderful collection of wines. The feedback so far has really been superb. Sam’s Two Paddocks wines are available online or directly in the shop. You can follow Sam on Twitter at his @twopaddocks handle.