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Archive for January, 2011

Article – Fethard Today, Moscow Tomorrow

January 28th, 2011

The Bridgestone Top 100 Places to Eat was published recently and John McKenna could be heard on various radio shows and was quoted in a number of national newspapers. As a proud recipient of a Bridgestone Award and having heard John speak on a number of occasions, I am always interested in his opinion of what’s hot and what’s not.

It is of course a subjective opinion and one person’s salt is another person’s pepper. However, one thing that struck me from the interviews I heard was the assertion that to save the national economy we must first save the local one. It is a subject that I have become very passionate about since opening Red Nose Wine (at the start of a recession), and more especially since getting involved with the Tipperary Food Producers. Wine and Food are two parts of the same experience for me.

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A Donegal Table

I spoke of food and wine last week and will again this week, but a few good news stories emerged from the despair that 2010 brought to the restaurant trade. When I spoke on behalf of the Tipperary Food Producers Network in Kilkenny last year at the FoodCamp seminar I met Donal Doherty of Harrys Bar & Restaurant in Inishowen Co. Donegal. This is a restaurant in a very remote part of the country that has become one of the most sought after eating experiences in Ireland. John McKenna mentioned them on radio and in print numerous times.

Local Local Local 

What makes them different is they have a very bold yet sincere declaration in terms of their promise to customers. All of the food must come from “one small beautiful penninsula – Inishowen”. This is taking local food to the maximum and they proudly list their local food partners as sharing in the glory. Myself and Donal are members of the Twitterati and you can follow the movements of the restaurant in real time. He is known as @harrysdonal in the Twitter world.

The savage winter would have cost them ( and many other restaurant owners ) a lot of business, especially in the critical December month. However, when the weather relented in the week after Christmas, according to John McKenna the restaurant did 2,000 covers. ( I met Donal in Dublin since the article was published and that number was actually closer to 2,100 ). Inishowen is a small place and that figure requires loyalty built with people who are travelling from far and wide.

As a Tipperary man talking about local food, then why should I talk about Donegal? It might be a long way to Tipperary but Donegal is surely further away. It is a model of success that I believe offers a great opportunity for Tipperary restaurants. I know that a lot of cafes and restaurants do buy local produce but I am not aware of one that does so exclusively. If there is one, please let me know.

Wow do you make your sauce?

There are a number of large food and beverage companies that supply a lot of the hotels and restaurants in Ireland at a very competitive rate. As well as choice, they also have that most useful of commodities, economies of scale. They offer a low cost alternative in a struggling industry so it is very easy to see why people use them. However, when the sauce on your chicken comes from a jar and tastes identical in Cork and in Sligo, then I believe you are losing more than you are gaining.

The business’s that are adapting to the economy best are offering something very different from their competitors and I think people want value, and as I have said before, value does not equate to price. If it did, we would all eat in McDonalds and I would never sell a bottle of La Péira.

A very special pub ( with great food )

I have had some really fantastic food in Tipperary and I think we are awash with great places to eat. I am trying to get Jasper in McCarthys in Fethard to put my picture up on the wall in the very famous pub. I have a space in mind beside Pricilla Presley. I am trying to argue that he would have it up before I am famous for the book I shall one day write. So far, he is not biting.

The Legendary McCarthys

The Legendary McCarthys

McCarthys do have a lot of local produce on their menu ( 90% of meat on the last order ) and I had a sublime meal out there recently. I had aged Tipperary beef in a Red Wine sauce which was cooked to perfection ( medium – rare). I have to admit I supply wine out there so when I say the wine was perfect with it, I am very biased. I am sure Brad Pitt is biased when says he has a great looking wife, but it doesn’t mean he is wrong.

The owner of Chateau Miraval ( on sale at Red Nose Wine )

The owner of Chateau Miraval ( on sale at Red Nose Wine )

Brad and Angelina also have a great wine called Miraval, but blatant plugs aside, McCarthys was a great night out and a good example of somewhere that people are wiling to travel to. The new chef has transformed the menu and the fish my wife had was “fresh as a daisy”.

Tipperary Food

Tipperary has a great opportunity to become the county of choice for food. Bord Bia released fantastic export figures recently and food is a strong positive in a very weak economy. Tipperary has the brand name, the location, but more importantly we have the food. As soon as it is possible to make quality wine in Tipperary, I will be the guinea pig, but until that time, I will match the local food to the wine of like minded people from around the world.

We just need people to buy into this idea of local business saving the national economy. The restaurants need to do it, but the people must support it and they must get value for money.

That is a lot of words about food in an article about wine, but I did warn you last week that I would talk about food for a few articles. I have a lot of plans to get Red Nose Wine to the next level in 2011 and many are ideas that involve food and local food at that. I am always looking to work with like minded people on these ideas.

I have just ordered my first container of wine from Chile with some other importers who are very like minded in what they are trying to bring to the Irish wine industry. We are competitors but we are also fighting the same fight and have many things we can help each other with.

Ham & Pinot Noir

Speaking of wine, I will now describe a typical Tipperary dish and I will match it to a wine for you. I was invited to a very food orientated party last weekend and there was all manner of food on offer. Among these was a perfectly prepared ham, sourced from the wonderful Crowe Farm in Dundrum.. A sweeter style wine is required here and Riesling or Gewurztraminer would be great white options. A medium bodied Pinot Noir ( possibly from New Zealand ) would be a great red to match the ham.

Ella Mcsweeney visits Crowes Farm

Ella Mcsweeney visits Crowes Farm

Apologies to Pat Whelan for stepping on his “Food” toes with the early part of the article but I think that Pat would agree with the sentiment. He is a very strong advocate of local food and Tipperary Food in particular. I appreciate that I am repeating myself but by saving the local economy we can save the national one. We need to become an exporting country, and food can play a big part of this. But this must start locally first. Fethard today and Moscow tomorrow.

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

Please have a look at our Facebook site and ‘Like’ Us so we can share all the photos with you. Feel free to share this page with your friends and enemies.

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 – Inspiration, Poetry and Promotion

January 28th, 2011

—– I am slowly catching up on posting all of the articles ( Busy Christmas period :) ) – there will be a glut of them until we catch up

This week I have been searching for inspiration and motivation amid the chaos and disorder that engulfs our country. We are all desperately looking for leadership and as I am a card carrying supporter of local business I am tempted to hold some of our elite business people as a model of optimism.

Tipperary and Clonmel in particular is blessed with some truly original and visionary people who have redefined their industries on both a national and international level. However, any such sycophancy might be misinterpreted as potential buttering up ahead of a corporate wine order.

Incidentally, if any such buttering up would work, please drop me a line and I can arrange for same. The degree of buttering up is proportional to the amount of money spent in Red Nose Wine. I know Mr. Archimedes had a mighty fine principle, but this is called Gubbins’ Law from first principles.

Invictus

In spite of all of the great local examples, the inspiration I found came from the great Nelson Mandela. During his long time in prison he was known to recite a poem by William Ernest Henley called “Invictus”. As much as I would love to write down the four verses, I am sure it would be a step too far for my ever patient editor. The poem is about seemingly unbearable suffering and one’s necessity to rise above it; regardless of how little we are to blame. The last verse reads, “It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”

I watched a film about Mr. Mandela this week and even though it was very much of the Hollywood persuasion the power of the man still shone through. I have always felt a need to apologise to Mr. Mandela for something I nearly did. During my MBA in 2006, the class went on a trip to South Africa to see firsthand the business environment of an emerging economy. Lectures and field trips were arranged and we met some fascinating people and saw some amazing businesses. One of the days we visited Robben Island and were given a tour by an ex Prisoner who had been there with Mr. Mandela.

 

Song, Sea and Wine

If we can step back to the night before, we were at a welcoming function that coincided with an Irish and British ex-pats event, which turned into a very late night. The trip to the prison is made on a small little boat, which is handy since we were heading for an island. While I have no doubt the prisoners found the journey difficult, on this particular morning this ‘elite’ group of Ireland’s premier Graduate Business School found it horrendous. Boats and hangovers do not mix. They never have and they never will.

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine in South Africa among the vines

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine in South Africa among the vines

I struggled on as best I could through the tour but as soon as we reached Mr. Mandela’s cell (which is tiny), the walls started to cave in and I had to make a very quick dash for my own freedom. I kept myself intact in the end, but I always felt that I didn’t show the great man the reverence he deserved.

The Great Man

The Great Man

Did he like wine? I really don’t know and am not going to be so cheap as to pretend or suggest that he did. I will say the poem and his strength resonated with me and I suggest you all Google it and read it for yourself. I am sorry to move so far away from wine, but the remainder of this article will be flowing with the juice of the vine.

Cheap Premium Wines

I have a huge array of new wines that have come direct from the vineyards in stock and the plan all along was to build a portfolio that hits all price points. There is great value out there from the quality vineyards as well as the cheap and cheerful. One great example is a pallet that sold really well at Chrismtas. It is from a very famous vineyard who has relabelled their award winning Red Wine ( for one vintage only). Their wines can cost over 20 Euros but this is flying out at 10 Euros / bottle when bought as a case. It is a very cheap way to have top quality wine in the house this Christmas. Ask for the Tricolour Wine.

As per usual, you can buy one bottle and we are open to the public. There has never been a prerequisite for larger purchases, but we do tend to offer discounts when you buy a few more bottles, such as the Lagarde.

Bubbles on a Budget

One thing that has taken a real hammering on the world market in recent years is Champagne. However the public’s love of bubbles has remained and Prosecco has taken over as the tipple of choice. After much searching (nearly 2 years) we finally found one direct from the vineyard that we are happy with the price, quality and even the presentation. The Frizzante version is only 12 Euros and the fully Spumante is great value at 16 Euros. Who says bubbles need to be pricey.

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

Please have a look at our Facebook site and ‘Like’ Us so we can share all the photos with you. Feel free to share this page with your friends and enemies.

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”

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