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Archive for March, 2010

Our fallen comrades

March 31st, 2010

Today was a terrible day in Red Nose Wine. I dropped the kids to the crèche and came back to try and do a little bit of work at home before facing the cold cold warehouse. Such was my rush to start tweeting and engage in all things virtual that i grabbed the laptop case and forgot that I had deposited a little present in the side pocket the night before. We are currently in the days of Wine and Roses, without the Roses. I am receiving samples from my recent travels on nearly a daily basis. While the warehouse has warmed up considerably, you still don’t want to take the vest off, so I tend to bring the reds home to taste. Also, you need to give the poor bottles a chance to recover from the journey. Anyway, the wine was in the bag, and bang, whoosh, wallop. With one swift movement, i created this :

broken bottle

Needless to say, the tweeting was reduced to a limited few expletives and the mop and broom took centre stage. But it got me to thinking, what else have i dropped. A couple of bottles of the wonderful Les Terrasses and Margui and Margaux. But the worst story i witnessed was in a restaurant in Paris a few years ago. A regular client was impressing a few friends and brought with him a bottle of 1961 Petrus. This is BYOB at its best. The poor waiter was so nervous opening this €2,000 – €4,000 bottle of wine that it slipped through his palms and bang. I was about 2 tables away but the look on his face and the wine’s owner said it all… I will have to drop a lot more bottles to catch up. I hope today was my last.

Has anyone else any good bottle dropping stories? I heard a few on twitter today but won’t repeat them without consent. So, Kevin, Mike, Frank, Paula and David, the floor is open to you and anybody else who nearly tasted that fruit of the vine only for the crash of the bottle to end it all on tears.

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

——- update on BlogPost ——-

My comment above ” I hope today was my last” has proved to be a bit of a jinx. Only 2 days later, in a vain attempt to clean up the warehouse when closed for Good Friday, i did the following :

Another Broken Bottle

Another Broken Bottle

The only consolation was that it was Le Page de Vignelaure and not Chateau Vignelaure that i dropped. In future i shall keep my mouth ( or blog ) shut….

Article – The Irish are Coming

March 24th, 2010

For the week that’s in it, and even though we are a day after St. Patricks, I will talk about the Irish who have followed the dream and bought the vineyard in the sun. In fact, this topic is so close to my heart, I will even do a quick turn as an estate agent in the hope that Pat, John and the rest of the experts don’t decide to down tools in protest. Fear not estate agents of South Tipperary, as I will only discuss property in France, and in particular, vineyards in France. I can almost smell the lavender.

I mentioned the Irish owned Domaine des Anges in last weeks article and I won’t repeat myself as to the quality of these wines, but suffice to say that Tomás Clancy of the Sunday Business Post agrees and he has just raved about them in last Sunday’s paper. Did he gain inspiration from my article last week? The wines reviewed received huge ratings but unfortunately, he did not tell the Irish Business world that I stock them. If the world is listening, I do. I am also glad to say that they can also be found in one of the best restaurants in Tipperary. Befani’s on Sarsfield Street have the Red and White as part of their new organic section. Their imaginative menu will compliment these wines fantastically and I can’t wait for my next visit. But enough shameless publicity.

Other Irish people making a go of wine making in France include Sean and Caroline Feeley of Chateau Haut Garrigue in the Bergerac region. They are in the process of moving from organic to biodynamic winemaking and their quality rises year on year. You might have seen them on the cover of the Irish Times last year, at a Red Nose Wine Tasting or on the Nationwide TV program before Christmas. RTE sent out a crew to film the harvest and even though it is very hard work, they made it all sound and look very tempting. One of our own, David O Brien from Rosegreen brought the great Chateau Vignelaure back to life in the mid 90’s and it now sits alongside some of the icon wines of France. Their Rosé is also spectacular and if we manage to get a summer this year, this is one to savour. I hope you all called down to the Arches on St. Patricks Day to taste all of these Irish wines. Maybe it will give you a taste for the dream.

As I check my range of websites on current vineyards for sale, the first thing that strikes me is that there is a lot. It is a good time to be a buyer and in particular, a cash customer. There is a very nice Provence vineyard for sale with 100 acres and a large Mas ( farmhouse ) to restore for €1.2million. There is small Loire Valley house and vineyard for sale for €478,000. It also has an orchard, so you could give Bulmers a rattle on the side. However, if my ship came in, I think I would go for an 18th Century Maison de Mâitre with a vineyard and a pool. It has 11 bedrooms and lies near the coast between Cannes and St. Tropez. I think I would feel bad only paying the asking price of €2.6million. I’d offer them €3million just so I could sleep at night. To sleep, perchance to dream.

It is not all one way traffic – some winemakers actually move to Ireland. I have raved about Mas Daumas Gassac on many an occasion and the world famous wine was started by the equally famous Áime Guibert. He finds refuge from the heat of the Languedoc in Ireland, and in Cork to be exact. The family have a house near Bantry and he sails his boat in the summer. His son Roman spent part of his education in Rockwell College, and he tells me that he made regular trips to Clonmel to practice his English in Dannos. His older brother Samuel will be coming to Ireland on April 14th for a very special tasting. As well as the Grand Cru wines, we will taste their full range which starts from €9. I spoke to him this morning about the tasting and he was calling from Japan. I am very serious when I say that his schedule reads something like this: Tokyo – Buenos Aires – Paris – New York – San Francisco – Clonmel – London – Berlin – Madrid. This is a real rare chance to meet one of the very special families in wine and who are almost single-handily responsible for dragging the Languedoc out of the doldrums. It also helps that the wines are superb and really do have something for all budgets. Numbers will be limited so call in to reserve your seats.

Don’t forget to log onto the blog at www.rednosewine.com/blog or follow the ranting on Twitter – www.twitter.com/rednosewine

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”

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist mar 18 2010

Article – How much is too much?

March 15th, 2010

Fate intervened this week and has chosen the article subject for me. In the words of the great Leonard Cohen, “I was born like this, I had no choice, I was born with the gift of a golden voice”. Whatever about the golden voice, I had no choice, as two things happened in quick succession that led to the article subject matter. As with many of life’s interesting ( and uninteresting ) stories, it started with a bottle of wine. I have been tasting samples since my trip to France and also from the various wine fairs that I have been attending. I am inundated with samples of wine and it is proving tough going getting through them all. People who have heard me sing will appreciate the damage potentially being done to the “golden voice”. During the week, I tasted some samples from a very well reviewed house in the Rhone Valley. The famous American critic Robert Parker loves them and to be fair, the wines are very much full bodied tour de forces. The winemaker recommended that I open the top end wines about 5 hours before drinking. I had tasted the wines at a show in Montpellier in January but never checked the alcohol content. It is only when I got the bottles did I notice that 2 of the wines were marked 16%. The wines were well made and the alcohol was well integrated with the fruit, but that’s a big number – and this has a lot to do with 2007 being an exceptional year in the south of France. After my official tasting was done, I took the nicest bottle and had a couple of glasses in front of the TV. I only had 2, but I don’t mind telling you, I was like the annoying guest at the end of a wedding by the end of the second glass. I had a theory on everything and only for the children asleep upstairs; I may have even exercised the golden voice. I can handle a drink, but this one knocked me out. I slept the sleep of angels.

The next morning I was not hung-over, but I felt like I had been out for a big meal. The head was a little seedy and I didn’t jump out of bed with my usual energy. I did my few jobs around the house and had a few messages to do in Clonmel. One of them was to collect the new edition of Decanter, the UK wine magazine. I sipped away at a coffee and flicked through the pages and came across an article by Andrew Jefford, who asked the question “Can fine wine be made at 14% or even 15% alcohol, or is quality compromised”. Considering my previous night’s endeavours, I felt compelled to submit to fate and this is how my article’s subject came to be decided upon. Considering the length of time it has taken me to get to that point, no doubt some of you are wondering if I am re-sampling, but I can assure you I am on the coffee.

The article looks at both sides of the argument and lets various people state their case. Realistically, if you have a vineyard that is blessed with lots of sun and heat, you can get fairly consistent results and you don’t have the problems of grapes not getting to their full ripeness. This is why vintage is less important in the south of France than in Bordeaux. However, when you get a really good summer with lots of heat, then the potential trouble arrives. The more sun that the vines receive, then the more sugar content is in the grapes, and the higher the sugar content, the higher the alcohol content. There are ways and means to reduce and increase the alcohol levels artificially in wines, but at this stage, for those of you who have read a few of my articles at least, I tend to only be interested in wines that reflect the land where they are grown, and the people who cultivate this land. In essence, don’t mess with what nature has delivered. You have to take the good with the bad, or at least the winemaker does – I don’t have to buy them in a bad year. Wines alcohol levels range from about 4.5% ( in Moscato ) to about 20% in Port. The balance is everything and if you can noticeably smell or taste the alcohol in a port, then you can confidently class it as bad example. The alcohol is in balance with the fruits, which in this case are sweeter than a normal wine. But if you go back 50 years, table wine was in the 11% to 12.5% range, even in abnormally hot years. The big change has come from a mix of lower yields, selective harvesting and more efficient yeasts. If you then add Global Warming to the pot, you get more sugar and more alcohol. The ancient concept of terroir now comes back into focus as the vineyards that are exposed the most to the elements have to really work hard to control the levels. A lazy winemaker will be found out very quickly – pruning is a year round exercise. The higher altitude vines are that little bit cooler and this helps in the really hot years.

As if fate was really giving me a push, I just had the same conversation with Gay McGuinness who owns the wonderful Domaine des Anges in Provence. He was in the warehouse this morning dropping off the new order of wines. After some suitable comments about the Tipperary – Kilkenny match ( Gay is a Kilkenny man ), we got onto wine. Their vineyard is quite high and overlooks the famous Mount Ventoux. The amount of their wine that was sold this Christmas is a testament to the quality of the wines, both red and white. You won’t see too many wines that balance the higher alcohol so well, especially at the €12.50 price point. Considering St. Patricks Day is arriving, this might not be a bad option to show your love of wine and all things Irish. The winemaker is Ciaran Rooney, a Dublin man who is forced to live in one of the most beautiful regions on the planet. Interestingly enough, there are different rules worldwide for alcohol level labelling. Australia allows for a 1.5% tolerance, so a 14% labelled wine could be 12.5 or 15.5%. It is a similar story in the U.S. and New Zealand. European wines are a little tighter and demand a 0.5% threshold. Going back to my 16% sample wine, I am afraid I won’t be importing it, but they have some very nice Cotes du Rhone wines, red and white, at more realistic levels that I am interested in pursuing further. With vines, and the essential sunshine they require, there really is the potential of too much of a good thing.

Don’t forget to log onto the blog at www.rednosewine.com/blog or follow the ranting on Twitter – www.twitter.com/rednosewine

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”

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist mar 11 2010

ST. PATRICKS DAY – Tipperary Food Producers in Clonmel

March 9th, 2010

An exciting one day food extravaganza is planned for Clonmel on St.Patrick’s Day Wednesday next the 17th of March. The fair will take place under the arches of the Main Guard and promises to be a treat for all the family. Along with the fine food available to try and buy there will also be Tipp Fm Roadcaster on the street creating a unique atmosphere reminiscent of years gone by. It will enrich the area, support a feeling of community and will definitely be an event for the whole family to enjoy.

Everyone knows that one of the best things about St.Patrick’s Day is food, glorious food. At this special, under the arches food extravaganza there will be plenty of delicious offerings to be had. All the producers involved are members of the Tipperary Food Producers Network, who operate very strict quality criteria, and therefore you are guaranteed top quality local products. Each of the participants has won various awards for their produce but the true test is always in the taste and there will be plenty of opportunity to sample on the day.

Those taking part are Inch House, renowned for their black pudding, The Scullery who do a particularly tasty pudding in their delicious range. , Crossogue Preservers. The Cookie Jar, Tasty Treats and. James Whelan Butchers will be showcasing their famous Steak burgers while Crowe’s Farm will bring their award winning artisan bacon and ham to the feast. Local baker Nuala Hickey will be showcasing her world famous brack while Una O Dwyer will be cooking her award winning range of sausages. Red Nose Wine will provide samples from some of Ireland’s modern day winemakers in France. The newest members to our network Audrea Hassett and Sarah Baker will also be showcasing there products.

Don’t miss this special event where you can source all your ingredients or buy food gifts for everyone you know. It is the perfect antidote to food shopping in the supermarket and a real treat for your taste buds. Under the Arches at the Main Guard Clonmel will be crammed with goodies and will be open from 12noon to 4.30pm on Wednesday 17th of March for one day only.

St.Patrick,s Day Food Extravaganza Under the Arches at the Main Guard has been organized by Tipperary Food Producers Network in association with the Clonmel Chamber of Commerce, Clonmel Urban Council and the St.Patrick,s Day Committee.

Article – Confirmations & Communions

March 6th, 2010

The churches are getting ready and the new clothes are being bought in households up and down the country. The boys and girls of Ireland are preparing for their first holy communion and their confirmation. Mammy and Daddy are weighing up the options of a bouncy castle and a house party or maybe they will fill up the local pub. The pub is definitely my memory. There are pictures of my grandfather and myself having a drink in Carey’s Lounge circa 1981 – I was on the Lilt in case you are wondering. Bars of chocolate from Ma Welch’s shop and a 50pence piece were the presents of choice, if you were lucky. I am not sure how that would go down now. The level of expectancy may have grown with the Celtic Tiger. We have all seen the shows highlighting the fake tan and the horse drawn carriages for the princess and the huge bouncy castles that literally squeeze into the back lawn. I still like Dairy Milk and now and again, I have been known to nostalgically sip on a Lilt. I think though, you will see a little bit of restraint crawling back into society and the humble ham sandwich might make a comeback.

Whatever about the castles, I know that the increase in the popularity for wine will not fall back into the history books. We have a taste for the good stuff now and a person’s palate has a memory and there is no turning back now. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it. With this in mind, my topic for this week is wines for a large family gathering where you don’t really want to break the bank. A communion, christening or confirmation would fall into this category. There are a few do’s and don’ts that I will attempt to cover and also suggest what wines might best suit this occasion. I am sure my colleague in the Tipperary Food Producers Network and in the Life section of the paper, Pat Whelan will have a plethora of food on offer for any of these auspicious occasions. Assuming the food in question is something along the lines of pork, chicken or beef, and with a curry, tomato or casserole style sauce, you can have some fun with the wine selection. God forbid we get some weather and attempt a barbeque. I am assuming fish is too hard to time successfully for a large group. Greater chefs than I will manage it in style, I have no doubt.

What you want to avoid for a mixed gathering of people, whose wine tastes you are not fully aware of, is being too adventurous. I personally do a serious background check on any potential friend or future family member and their wine tastes. I had to break off all communication with numerous friends and family over the years for careless comments made about certain wines and regions. But then I am very passionate when it comes to wine. One wine to potentially avoid is Chardonnay, and for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it can be a wine that people love or hate, and the cheaper versions of it are not quite as good as the cheaper versions of other varieties. If you are spoiling your guests with Chablis, Macon or Burgundy, then Chardonnay is an option, but if you want to keep it under €10 Euros a bottle, avoid the cheap stuff. Sauvignon Blanc is more neutral, but not always a great wine for a buffet style. It can be too dry for the general public. Another tip – never drink it the day after a wedding, as it will exploit your dodgy stomach at every opportunity. I would love to suggest my favourite white wine style, Riesling, but it is not for everyone. So, with a budget in mind and a large group to please, I would suggest Pinot Grigio, as it is easy drinking and is both dry and fruity at the same time. I will be doing a big promotion for the upcoming communions and confirmations with an easy drinking €8 euro bottle of Pinot Grigio one of the main attractions.

And then there were the Reds. I do not mean the mighty Reds of Old Trafford, or even the other mid table variety. I refer to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz or maybe even Malbec, but not Pinot Noir. Much like my beloved Riesling, this might also be a step too far. I did serve it at my wedding though, and got many compliments, but whether it can justify the price is a point of contention. I think you can be a little more adventurous with the Reds, and a blend is always a good option. Bordeaux Cabernet/Merlot can be too dry, but the spicy Shiraz/Grenache from the Languedoc offers a fruity vibrant red that should stand up nicely to most of the sauces. Unless you are having a barbeque, I think some of the bigger Australian Shiraz wines are too big. The softer Chilean Merlots are another option of course, but they might be more suited to sitting down to dinner, as opposed to the rough and tumble adventure that is balancing fighting children, trying to the sneak a peek at the match on TV, holding a plate and enjoying a wine. The joys of a family buffet dinner where seats are a luxury for the under forties and time passes so slowly. I will have a range of these reds as part of my promotion – coming soon to a local newspaper near you. Full details will also be online and deliveries nationwide. Now that the sales pitch is over, whatever occasion causes you to break bread with family and friends is a good one, and I hope yours passes without incident and that you enjoy a nice glass of wine to celebrate a very important part of a young person’s life. My grandfather passed away in 1986, but I still remember the Lilt in Mick Careys Lounge and being allowed to sit on a big stool beside my Grandad.

Don’t forget to log onto the blog at www.rednosewine.com/blog or follow the ranting on Twitter – www.twitter.com/rednosewine

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”

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist Mar 4 2010

Special Case Offer – Confirmations & Communions

March 5th, 2010

We have a very Special Offer at the moment, for those house parties to celebrate the very special Confirmations and Communion Days. for €99.99 you get a mixed case of Red & White wines. Order now to avail of this great offer.

Sensi Pinot Grigio - A light semi fragrant wine with lemon-citrus flavours. Enjoy with seafood, ,eat and light pasta.

100465_sensi_pinot_grigio

Guilhem Red - Syrah-Grenache – Deep, brilliant red Vinous, complex aromas, with hints of red berries (cherry, blackberry, and strawberry) and spice. Opens soft and fruity with gentle tannins. Delicate and sophisticated. Long and smooth; a touch rustic reflecting its terroir.

Guilhem Rouge

Latest Article : Sacre Bleu – The French caught cheating!

March 3rd, 2010

A little bit late, but it was topical when it was published in the paper.

“A frosty mist gathers over Tipperary and I am tempted to talk about the informality of an age that forgets the greatest of the lessons from the past, but I would just be ranting and my anger might even surface, and I am just too old to be an angry young man. Does that sentence even make grammatical sense or will my old English teachers from the Ard Scoil come looking for me in the shop. To be honest, I hope they do. I listened to them for long enough, so they can endure my ranting and correct me as they may. In fact, let them call and we will discuss why Hamlet is the greatest of the bard’s plays. It should be compulsory every year for Leaving Cert students, as should basic driving ethics. There is a shadow that is now nudging my fingers towards a subject that I am supposed to be writing about. Could it be wine?

I will discuss an incident that may shock some of you. Disbelief will leak from the pages through the ink smudged fingertips of North and South Tipperary readers, and the world will stop to listen, as you scream from the rooftops : “Sacré Blue – the French have cheated”. Have you read the words properly; have I, a card carrying lover of France and the French lifestyle written them? I have, for I cannot ignore the biggest story in wine for the last number of years. Every self respecting wine writer is discussing it, so I will fall into line and do my duty. The single biggest wine producer in the world, E&J Gallo of California, has a very famous brand called Red Bicyclette, which takes an American commodity view of French wine. After the success of the film Sideways, which preached the virtues of Pinot Noir, they decided on the need to capitalize on the American nation’s demand for a cheap version of this grape. They bought truck fulls of the stuff from local French coops through a negotiant, or agent. It was all running smoothly and sales were up until a recent development came to light – 12 local figures from the Languedoc region of France were convicted of masterminding a scam where 18 million bottles of plonk were sold as Pinot Noir. Instead of the much more expensive grape that Gallo thought they were buying, they in fact were sold Merlot and Shiraz, and by all accounts, not particularly good versions. The problem with Pinot Noir is that its yield is very poor compared to its compatriots, and it is also very difficult to grow, as it needs a very balanced mix of cold and heat and rain. If you were to sell the farm and move to France and become a winemaker, and some of us hold that dream dear, you would be foolish to start making Pinot. You would be pretty much guaranteed to be poverty stricken by year 2. With other grapes, you might make it to year 3 or 4, for as the old saying goes, “in order to make a small fortune in wine, start with a large one”.

The scandal’s big deception took place from January 2006 until March 2008 and 13.5 million litres of wine were consumed in America. The French negotiant who duped Gallo was caught like many a person or company gets caught, by greed. Their books showed that they were paying 40% under the going rate for Pinot Noir and further investigation showed that eight different wine cooperatives were in on the scam. It does not reflect well on the palates or decision making of the Gallo buyers, for there is a very distinct difference between Merlot, Shiraz and Pinot Noir. They are the victim in this case, but the reality is that their customers are.
The big danger now is that the greed of these commodity grape growers will reflect badly on the small artisan wine makers of the region who give their lives to their vines. These are the small family wine makers who cannot compete against Gallo and the other corporate wine brands that you see on supermarket shelves. Gallo will invest millions to defend their image after this scandal, but the small winemaker who had nothing to do with it might now also suffer. The timing is poor as the Languedoc Roussillon region is now finally being seen as one of the great value regions in the world. I have slowly being increasing my range and they are proving very popular. After my first contact with the winemakers I always get samples sent back to Ireland to re-taste and then I travel to see the winemakers’ cellar and walk in their vineyards and identify the grape varieties on the vine. I then know that the wine that I bring back to Ireland is the real deal and the feedback that is growing all the time justifies all the work involved in making sure that the customer can taste the difference. I firmly believe that by making the customer the focus of your business, you will reap the rewards in the long term. With this in mind, I am preparing for yet another portfolio wine tasting as it is the season for these things. I think I have tasted over 400 wines this month ( and spat them all I may add ), so my dentist is due a visit. Before that however, there are many more wines to taste – Wednesday sees an Italian and Australian tasting in Dublin. Have wine glass, will travel.”

Don’t forget to log onto the blog at www.rednosewine.com/blog or follow the ranting on Twitter – www.twitter.com/rednosewine

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”

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist Feb 25 2010

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