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Archive for July, 2010

Article – Hollywood and Wine

July 24th, 2010

I am still sweating and writing this article about 5 minutes after coming back from two vineyard visits today in the searing heat. I hear there has been a drop of rain in Ireland but France continues to sizzle. There are only so many times you can change your underpants in one day. Too much information I hear you shout. Anyway, this article will describe a visit I had today with a legend in wine.

John cools off in the heat

John cools off in the heat

Emmanuel Gaujal is the foremost consultant in Provence wine and in particular white wine. He owns a company that consults with other winemakers but his most important client is the very famous Chateau Miraval. I have used the word famous with many vineyards so you might think, “here he goes again”. Why is Miraval famous? Is it because it goes back to pre Roman times or because Pink Floyd recorded their seminal album “The Wall” there? Is it because The Cranberries recorded in the same studio, as well as a lot of other famous artists? Maybe it’s because it was recently purchased by a very famous Hollywood couple who are among the most famous people on the planet, if you are into that type of thing. All of the above is true, but it is also famous for creating a white wine that many regard as the best in France.

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine in Chateau Miraval, Provence

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine in Chateau Miraval, Provence

In advance of the trip I had to send details of my car and the person travelling with me. A rigorous interview at the security gates and we were in, and took the 2km drive to the main house and around the back to the office where an early morning coffee and a discussion on the philosophy of the estate was had in the courtyard. Organic is the order of the day here and very traditional methods are used in parallel with Mr. Gaujal’s many years of expertise. He helped create estates including the original incarnation of Chateau Vignelaure, later made famous again by David O Brien. This part of Provence is not really known for white wine as the hot weather does not make a good bedfellow for the acidity often required in great white wine. However the commune of Correns near Brignols uses its altitude ( a few dodgy bends were manoeuvred to get there ) and microclimate to create a truly exceptional wine. We tasted their Rose ( called Pink Floyd ) before the 3 whites. While the “Lady Jane” is the wine that is technically the most complex, for me the middle wine, Terre Blanche really stole the show. It had supreme balance, acidity and a wonderful expression of fruit. It really impressed me, and also my guest, who usually prefers red wine. At a fraction of the cost of the serious Burgundy wines, I am seriously considering trying it out on the Irish market. I’ll keep you posted. If I get it in, it will be in small amounts, but I will open it for a week in the shop. I can’t promise we will get Brad or Angelina over for a tasting, but you never know.

The Miraval estate covers 2 appelations - Cotes de Provence ( left of road ) and Cotes Varois ( right )

The Miraval estate covers 2 appelations - Cotes de Provence ( left of road ) and Cotes Varois ( right )

After the visit to the Hollywood Hills, we met one of my earliest suppliers, Philippe Guillanton of Chateau Margui for a very long and leisurely lunch. This was followed by a visit to Margui itself and while I have been there a few times, my guest has not, and was suitably impressed. He renovated an old farmhouse from the 18th century and it is a sight to behold. If you are near Provence, and want to visit a vineyard, let me know. Philippe is a most gracious host and his estate will blow you away. Like most of France, Philippe is very excited by the 2009 vintage and i have the white chilling in the fridge as I write. The reds won’t be bottled until next year. I have long waxed lyrical about Philippe and his generosity to me when I started. The fact that his wines are still as popular is testament to his skill as a winemaker and a businessman. Until next time, from the sunny south of France.

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine and Philippe Guillanton of Chateau Margui

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine and Philippe Guillanton of Chateau Margui

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”

Article – Drinking wine in a heatwave

July 16th, 2010

Greetings from my holidays. I have written articles from abroad on wine trips and have been known to squeeze a lot of words and numerous articles from a quick 3 day trip. By the time the first article gets published, I am usually back in the office and flogging wine to my wonderful customers. This time is different, as I am sitting in an apartment in Nice and still plan to be here by Thursday’s paper. I have interrupted my holidays to write this article as the kids have a siesta in the next room. Since I am on holidays and it is past noon, I am sipping on a beer as I write, in true Hemingway style with a little drop of illusions of grandeur. We left a very wet Cork airport last Thursday to arrive into a heat wave. I am melting in the 32 degree heat – and that’s just in the morning. The normal sea breeze is but a faint puff and locals mix with tourists in an undercurrent of unspoken contrariness. And why you may ask am I not quenching my thirst with wine, instead of beer. Because it’s a heat wave – I thought I mentioned that.

Nice Port at 1am - still about 28 degrees

Nice Port at 1am - still about 28 degrees

How does one indulge in one’s favourite tipple while enduring such heat? It is a question that may affect many of you while on holidays this summer as most of Europe is at the start of a period of oppressive heat. Here are a few tips that may be of use while drinking wine on your holidays. The main one is obvious but absolutely essential to avoid a holiday hangover. When out for your meal and enjoying your wine, drink at least equal amounts of water while having the wine. I always have two glasses on the go, water and wine, and would often go through at least two carafes of water during a meal. You are losing fluids at a very quick pace in the heat and alcohol only accelerates it. I know I am now going to jinx myself for tonight, but I rarely get a hangover abroad. There was of course a trip to Sunderland for a football match with the Laffansbridge gentleman’s club a number of years ago which resulted in a woeful mix of ale, beer, wine, ale again and all at a ferocious pace. My requests for water were laughed at in equal measure by my Killenaule relations and the miners from the North East of England. I was quite ill. It is football and alcohol that lead me to the article. I went to watch the World Cup final last night in a pub on the port called Ma Nolans. The place was jammed and the doors were open so the air conditioning was effectively useless. There was sweat pouring out of the Dutch, Spanish, French, English, Irish and all manner of other nationalities that crammed in there. As the night progressed and the heat and tension with it, a girl collapsed and had to get medical attention. Heat and alcohol are not good bedfellows. So what is one to do, especially if you usually prefer Red wine?

Spanish Fans on Nice Port after World Cup

Spanish Fans on Nice Port after World Cup

If you like Rosé, it can be a great summer drink as it is light and very refreshing. It can be served cold as ice and often that can also mask the actual winemaking. Local wine is always a good choice as it is cheap and usually free of too many dodgy elements. It rarely has to travel far so doesn’t need much preserving. It can be rough as a badger as well. You need to find one you like and off you go. I am afraid I am going to name drop a little, so apologies in advance. A few years ago I was down in Provence to meet some suppliers and two friends of mine came along for the break. At the weekend we went down to a famous seaside village and the two lads had gotten a taste for Rosé. I was in and out to an internet café dealing with work issues so I wasn’t drinking. It was around the time of the Cannes Film Festival and who walks down the harbour only Stephen Spielberg and his wife. We all said hello and he said hi and waved. A couple of hours later and I had lost count of the Rosé the boys had gone through. Stephen and his entourage passed back up and said “You guys still here?” and gave a very friendly smile. One of the lads turned to him, deadpan, and said “We’re only trying to have a quiet drink. Will you just leave us in peace and stop harassing us”. To his credit, Mr. Spielberg roared laughing and apologised for disturbing us. The reason for this story in a wine article? Like I said, I was name dropping, but it did have Rosé in it and the lads were up the next day with no, or very little effects. I am not condoning excessive alcohol consumption in any way and especially in the heat. For me wine is best served at the dinner table, but when men of a certain age get a little unexpected holiday, they tend to go a little mad, or maybe it’s the heat.

For you red wine lovers, the best advice I can give you is what I am doing myself. Ask for chilled Red wine (it should be cheap and local) when out and about, or buy a basic bottle from your neighbourhood independent wine shop and stick in the fridge 30 minutes before opening. It is very refreshing and tastes quite nice as well. Avoid big red wines unless you want a little help dozing off for your siesta. Alternate with the water and enjoy your evening speaking French, Spanish, Italian or some hybrid of them all. Next week sees me on my odyssey to find the next big wine and I have a week’s work in the vineyards. I will be posting blogs and tweets direct from Provence, Languedoc, Roussillon and Bordeaux.

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”

Greetings from France on Bastille Day

July 14th, 2010

Greetings from France on Bastille Day. The weather is very hot and the air conditioning powers away in the background. There was a time when I dismissed Air conditioning as an American folie. It was very seldom seen in France during my first visit 20 years ago. I could not contemplate doing without it today. I can hear the fireworks in the background and the noise is emanating from the port of Nice below. My only real concern is that I am dangerously low on wine and I am home alone babysitting. I hope my wishful text will find my wife as she finds refuge in Nice from a particularly difficult day with a 3 year old and nearly 2 year old. In the words of their hero Peppa Pig, “Silly Daddy”. I decided to stretch the limits of their ability to get on a tram, get on a train and walk in 35 degree heat.

John on the way to Juan Les Pins - Bastille Day

John on the way to Juan Les Pins - Bastille Day

I then decided to see if they could eat in a restaurant under virtually no shade. Silly Daddy Pig. While the view was spectacular in Juan Les Pins,

Juan Les Pins, COte d'Azur

Juan Les Pins, COte d'Azur

I never got to revisit F Scott Fitzgerald’s old haunt, the Hotel Belles Rives. I had visions of dumping the wife and kids for an hour as I sat on the veranda looking out over the med, waxing lyrical with the ghosts of Hemingway and Fitzgerald. I did manage to get within 50 yards of the place though, but only because this was here.

Kids enjoy keeping Daddy steps away from F Scott Fitzgeralds old haunt

Kids enjoy keeping Daddy steps away from F Scott Fitzgeralds old haunt

As the great Bob Dylan once wrote ( or sang ), “twas in another lifetime, once of toil and blood”. My rapidly depleting wine is superb and I got to hang out with some great people today and see some stunning scenery. However, call it age or a sense of what’s important, but I’ll wait a few more years for my Hemingway moment. Even though I am still bitter about the hand ball, I love this country and I love their wines. I am on my last sip of a wonderfully cheap Cotes de Provence that I used to drink when I lived here many years ago. Some things still stay the same.

beatrice

“Allons enfants de la Patrie, Le jour de gloire est arrivé !”
Possibly my favourite scence in film history from Casablanca

Article – The water and the wine

July 8th, 2010

The gardeners of the country are rejoicing. The rain has arrived and their plants, vegetables and flowers are well in need of it. I was in college with the founder of GIY, Grow It Yourself, who promote the idea of self sufficiency in the back garden. He has been tweeting this morning about the rain and how welcome it is. Looking out the window into my backgarden, I can tell you that my wife’s spinach is out of control, so the rain did its job. Seeing as I was looking for inspiration on today’s subject, I thought Mick’s tweet was as good a place as any to start. Rain – how important is it to a wine’s quality?

Water is one of the four elements, with fire, earth and air the other three. There is of course a Bruce Willis film about an attractive supermodel from Eastern Europe being the fifth element. There was very little wine in that particular film, so we will dismiss it. By all means, if it comes on TV late at night, take a leaf out of George Hook’s book, and Sky Plus it. You can judge for yourself, but always remember, Sky care; as least that’s what George tells us. I am now well into the second paragraph and I haven’t really talked about wine. Water is a very important component to wine, but seeing that if you spill it on yourself, you will get wet, but this may be fairly obvious. But to assess the impact water has on the lifecycle of the grape and subsequent wine, you need to look at one important factor. Is it a dry vineyard or does it use irrigation. As a rule, the old world is dry and the new world tend to use irrigation, but there are countless wines that dismiss this theory. In fact, there seems to be a growing trend from premium winemakers in the new world towards terroir driven ‘dry’ vineyards. A lot of it stems from the practice of ampelography ( the “wha” is the cry from the back of the church?). As any proficient user of Google will tell you, it is the practice of matching the grape variety to its environment. If this is done correctly, you really shouldn’t need to irrigate the vines. Buyer beware when you see certain grape varieties grown in areas where they really don’t belong. What Mother Nature can’t provide, Uncle Chemistry supplements and Doctor Paracetamol is needed for Father Hangover. As is the wine world’s prerogative, there are of course exceptions and little pieces of land with very different characteristics to its neighbours have been found and miracle wines produced.

A dry vineyard means no irrigation, and a reliance on the weather falling at the right time. In many cases, the lack of regular water puts a stress on the vine, which many people believe is necessary for it to produce it’s best expression of fruit. Think of professional sport, and the shots produced in the heat of battle in golf majors, or the incredible scores found on All Ireland day in hurling. Look at cycling, and drugs or no drugs, the limits those people push their bodies to in the Tour de France is insane. After hours in the mountains, they must then sprint to defend attacks. I have no idea if Lance Armstrong is a nice guy or not, but having read his book and seeing him in his pomp on the Champs Elysee in Paris, he produces his best “fruit” while his body his under severe stress. Other people collapse at this point, and some vines can also collapse under the stress. The dry vineyard people also believe in this stress, so on older vines you will have roots that travel for miles underground in search of water and their fruit is a reflection of this journey as much as it is about the plot of land where the vines are planted. One of my best selling wines is Chateau Margui from Provence and Philippe Guillanton planted apricot trees near his white wine vines. These were young vines so very impressionable and almost immediately took on the flavours of the nearby fruit.

Irrigated vines would be very fruit driven as well, but the characteristics of the grape variety would be stronger here. The fruit tends to be more forward so Cabernet Sauvignon tends to taste of blackcurrant and other typical Cab Sab varieties. They can be jammy ( in hotter climates ) or quite vegetal in cooler climates. They get drip-fed water at appropriate times so never to be under pressure. This begs the question, for vines that are not irrigated, what are the optimal times to get a drop of rain. Ideally, a vineyard will get rain early in the cycle to encourage growth, but a rain towards the end of the cycle can bring on rot, which is not what you want. Excess rain in June can also prevent pollination of the vines flowers. A blast of sunshine in the last month before harvest has been known to save many a vintage. Too much rain at this point and you get big fat juicy grapes, but they are not concentrated. There is too much water and not enough fruit.

I have a personal preference for dry vineyard wines, but there is a strong case for a little bit of help at certain times, when there is a real need to save the harvest. Both Spain and France are reviewing their laws on this, so you may see changes going forward. Life is hard enough for these people, without losing everything to a hot spell at the wrong time. Shrivelled up dehydrated grapes can often result in very concentrated wines, and very often with high levels of alcohol. Climate change is forcing the issue to the table sooner than it might have. When the weather is perfect ( like 2009 was all over France ), the taste of place and character from a traditional wine is a great advert for nature. So, as I finish writing, I look forward to tonight’s home grown spinach and the good weather returning sooner rather than later.

Red Nose Wine are making room for the news wines we have found, and are having a massive sale starting this week. There will be very serious wines and not so serious wines to be had, at clearance prices. Prices start from €3.75.

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 July 8 2010

Oh what a night

July 5th, 2010

TWEBT 5 happened last night and Red Nose Wine were the supplier.
I didn’t know how it would go and if people would like the wine. I completely forgot that the top of the cork said 2007, and the year is one of the questions. Whoops! For the rules of TWEBT, see Brian Clayton’s blog.

cotes-du-rhone

I asked everyone to open it up a little early, so at 8pm I did the same. However, I knew the wine, so felt it only polite to start ahead of the group. ( They had to wait until 9pm). The wine is question was a Cotes du Rhone from Nicholas Boiron, maker of the award winning Chateauneuf du Pape wines. It was also from great 2007 vintage so it had a lot of body and very pure fruit. In fact, when deciding on which wine to use for #TWEBT, it was these recent comments from Robert Parker, that made up my indecisive mind – “last call…2007 Cotes du Rhone’s among the best values I have ever tasted but disappearing, and replaced by less successful 2008s and 2009s”.

Gary Gubbins and Nicholas Boiron C de Pape 2009

Gary Gubbins and Nicholas Boiron C de Pape 2009

I really wanted to put in a Loire Cabernet Franc, or maybe a Chenin Blanc, but felt it important to give the crowd something they might be familiar with and enjoy across the board. There were some very nice comments about the wine and I think for the most part everyone enjoyed it. There was a very interesting Whiskey tasting going on it parallel. Most people got old world, and higher end of alcohol spectrum but it took a long time to get the 3rd grape variety, Cinsault. To be fair, its only 5% of the mix. The newly anointed @grapes_of_sloth, Paul Kiernan was very aggressive with his guesses. He tweeted with the air of a man with his WSET diploma in the bag. I got so carried away with it all, I even offered a free bottle of wine to the person who guessed the right grapes in the right order of magnitude. A bottle will soon be on its way to @JoannaSchaff – Congratulations.

Anyway, all in all a great night and I was delighted with the response to the wine. While not to most adventurous selection, I think it goes to show that if you look for it, there really are top quality wines from the south of France at a great price. With the sale on, this wine is a steal at €13.05 ( 10% off ). Other similar wines are on sale with 15% and 20% off.

Big thanks to Brian and Kevin for inviting me… we all await Twebt 6.

The SALE goes on

July 2nd, 2010

The weather remains, and the poor old barbecue is wrecked. It never knew work like this before.

SALE SALE SALE

SALE SALE SALE

The sale has been very popular and the 20% and 15% wine have really been well taken up. If I am to pick my own stars among that batch, I would say

The Pont de Brion Graves - down from €15 to €12 and from the mythical 2005 Bordeaux vintage.

The Chateau Margui Blanc – down from €18.50 to €14.80 and in many a Michelin Star restaurant the world over.

The Michel Bailley Pouilly Fume – down from €19 to €15.30 – we had this last weekend and it drinking perfectly. High end Sauvignon from the Loire.

In Red, the some of the standouts include :

Twiggy - the famous Montepuliciano d’Abruzzo wine withe a piece of vine on the bottle – down from €17 to €14.45

The Cantina di Montalcino Sangiovese – Chianti without the price – down from €14.50 to €12.33

The famous New Zealand Muddy Water Pinot Noir- down from €28 to €23.80

This is all about while stocks last, so now is as good a time as any to stock up. Beat the recession pricing.

Have a great weekend and don’t forget Twitter Blind Tasting ( #twebt) on Sunday night at 9.
You can still buy your mystery bottle for €14.

Gary

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