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Article – Old Vines in the Barossa

June 13th, 2010

Free Rosé @ Red Nose

Lately, a few people have been suggesting that I am always on the road, and not in a Jack Kerouac kind of way. The truth is I am stretching the travels I do embark on (in the interests of wine) to the maximum, and usually get a number of articles and blogs from a very quick trip. So, alas, I don’t spend vast amounts of time globetrotting and drinking wine on a veranda in the sunshine. Anyway, I have very nice decking out the back garden and recently the sunshine has been cooperating. I don’t think that I am alone, as the current offer of free Rosé in the shop has been hugely popular. But I am not going to talk about Rosé, even if it is free, today I am going to transcend over 16,500 kilometres and visit the famous Barossa Valley in southern Australia. Brian O Driscoll sent a message on Twitter this morning (or tweeted to use the proper terminology) saying that he was really struggling with jet lag. Whilst I would love to send him a good Shiraz recommendation, I don’t think it would be answering Ireland’s Call in the correct manner. Brian will have to suffer on, but we can “line out” for an article about very old vines.

Australian Wine in Croker

Wine Australia (Ireland), under the very steady guidance of John McDonnell put on a great day recently in Croke Park where the best of Australia was on show. As well as the chance to meet and taste with importers and winemakers, there was also an opportunity to learn. I am always looking to learn more about wine, and the seminars on show that day ranged from the independent wine merchants take on the state of the industry, and included a very vocal opinion on big brand wines, supermarkets and their “use” of low price wine strategies.

The crowd at Croke Park

The crowd at Croke Park

It was interesting to see the wines on show for tasting, as there was very few that retailed for under €10 Euros. There seems to be a move away from that bottom end, and not before time. Considering the distance the wines have to travel and the quality of fruit at that price point, it is asking a lot to find a wine that has minimal sulphites and is not as natural as it might be. It is having a terrible effect on the independents, winemakers and I have witnessed a few dodgy post function hangovers to suggest the customer is not being best served either. The point was made that they won’t build up a brand with their customers, only for the supermarkets to sweep in and take it over and destroy the margin. Going on this theory we can hope to see more and more smaller vineyards making their way to the marketplace ( much as is the case with France today ). This offers the customer quality and real value, and can protect the importer and retailers who invest so much time and money in finding these wines. It was a very opinionated speech on the day, so we will see if the threat will transpire.

Alternative varietals with Chester Osborn

Alternative varietals with Chester Osborn

Very Old Vines indeed

One of the seminars I attended was about the old vines charter from the Barossa Valley, which is north of Adelaide. I have a lot of old vine wines from France, as I believe they offer characteristics that transcend the fruit and climactic conditions. If it is possible to taste history, it will be with an old vine wine. However, due to the ravages of phylloxera, which began in the mid 19th century, the French wine industry was more or less wiped out. You don’t see a lot of really old vines about. The insect came from North America (possibly on the newly launched steam ships – there is no recorded proof of ticket purchase) and caused havoc. No remedy could be found and the only solution was to rebuild the vineyards by grafting the European vines to the resistant North American rootstock. But this is all for another article. Australian vines were not affected and many people think of their wines as new world, which they are, but at this tasting I had a wine that came from vines that were planted in 1843. You read it correctly, 1843 – which makes them 167 years old. A German settler fleeing persecution in Prussia decided to plant a few vines. That same year, Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol. The following had not yet happened – the Crimean War, Franco Prussian War, World War 1 or World War 2. The Irish famine was just about to start, and in 36 years, a baby boy named Padraig Pearce would be born in Dublin. After that quick jaunt through history, what did the wine actually taste like? Ironically, it needed more time. It was a Shiraz and from the 2006 vintage, and while typical Shiraz characteristics (big black fruits and spice) shone through, there was an earthiness and a denseness to it with surprising acidity. I would love to retaste it in about 10 years. It is made by a direct descendent of the man who planted the vines in 1843. Unfortunately, it is made in tiny amounts and as far as I know, it is sold out in Ireland.

Sam Holmes, CEO of the Barossa Grape & Wine Association

Sam Holmes, CEO of the Barossa Grape & Wine Association

How Old is Old?

The wine was presented as part of a tasting with the Barossa Old Vine Charter. It was presented by Sam Holmes, CEO of the Barossa Grape & Wine Association. The charter protects wines like the Langmeil Freedom Shiraz (with its 167 year old vines) among others. We tasted wines that fall into the following categories; Barossa Old Vine (35 years or over); Barossa Survivor Vine (70 years or over); Barossa Centurion Vine (100 years or over) or the very rare Barossa Ancestor Vine (125 years or over). The older a vine gets, the lower the yield tends to be, but the lower the yield on a vine, normally increases concentration in the fruit. I don’t need to tell you that the wine on show, all eight of them were very impressive.

The Barossa

The Barossa

To quote Robert Hill Smith of Shaw & Smith vineyards, “The Old Vine Charter is dedicated to the recognition, preservation and promotion of these old vines”. The 1980s saw a lot of very old vines pulled up, and they are very eager for this not to happen again. I would love to see a similar charter started in the Languedoc in France, where lots of old Carignan vines are being ripped up in order to plant more fashionable vines. That is a battle for another day, and it could be argued that I talk about French wine way too much. I would be one of Australia’s greatest critics as I believe their campaign of very cheap commodity wines over the last 20 years has had a very bad effect on wine across Europe and nowhere more than Australia itself. The truly great wines are pushed into the background as the race to the bottom engulfs them. However, it was great to taste such fun, serious but for the most part interesting wines in Croke Park.

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 June 10 2010

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist June 10 2010

Past Articles – The weary wine merchants travels

May 3rd, 2010

Long before there was my blog, there were my articles in the paper. Seeing it is a bank holiday and I am feeling lazy, I will copy one of last summers articles ( or 2 ). I am also planning this summer’s big journey so nostalgia is setting in. However, it may be my age, but nostalgia ain’t what it used to be. Anyway, these articles were posted from the road last June.

Greetings from the vineyards of Provence in the south of France. The sun is beating down on my white Irish brow, and the insects must know I am on a wine tasting trip. They sense either the alcohol or sweet fruits of the vine that are flowing through my sunburned veins. They have devoured me these last few days and one of my legs looks like an overworked bodybuilder, on a bad day. If only I could explain to them that I have been spitting all the wine on this trip.

I have a little gap in my itinerary and have time to grab lunch in Le Bistro de Lourmarin, which funnily enough is in a small village called Lourmarin. This is the village where Peter Mayle re-settled after having to sell his original Luberon house when his book, “A Year In Provence” became a worldwide hit. It made the Luberon very crowded and Mr. Mayle a tourist attraction. I was hoping to spot him having a quiet coffee, but it is not to be. After lunch I make the hazardous and extremely scenic mountain drive between Lourmarin and Bonnieux, which leads on to Roussillon, where Domaine de Tara can be found. Incidentally, Roussillon is where Samuel Beckett spent most of World War 2, having being exiled from Paris. He later complained that he found it too hot, and today I can understand why.

The very scenic village of Roussillon in the Luberon, Provence

The very scenic village of Roussillon in the Luberon, Provence

Those of you familiar with Red Nose Wine, may be aware of Tara and Michele Follea’s award winning wines, which we have imported since our first day in business. I am here to taste the latest vintage and fight over price. Poor Mr. Lenihan and his excise duty get yet another battering. The wines are Cotes de Ventoux and the reds are primarily made up of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. A cheaper version of Chateauneuf du Pape for all the world, and not as heavy, so you can drink them in the summer. The whites are delicate Rousanne based wines and offer a great alternative to those sick of Sauvignon and Chardonnay. The meeting/tasting goes well and I try once more to find out whether the domaine is named after Scarlett O Hara’s homestead or the big hill beside the motorway. It depends who is asking is the well worn line. Whatever the truth, it is amazing how Ireland permeates the wine culture of France.

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine at Domaine de Tara

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine at Domaine de Tara

Tomorrow I am off to visit the great vineyard of the Languedoc, Mas de Daumas Gassac. Aimé Guibert’s wife Véronique is one of the preeminent scholars on Irish ethnology, and the family have a house in Bantry Bay. Their son, who now runs the business, went to school in Rockwell College. It is a small world. This is a family who redefined Languedoc wines on their own. The wine is referred to as the “Lafite of the Langeudoc” or the only Grand Cru wine from the region. They are no fools though, and have a range of wines from €8.99 all the way up the Grand Cru wine. They are also a joy to work with, as they show true understanding of the demands and realities of the Irish wine buying public. And in true French style (when you get to know them that is), they have also promised to give me a nice lunch among the vines tomorrow. Bon appétit.

With that in mind, I bid you farewell from Provence and the searing sun and hungry insects. All going well, I will return next week with news on many new and exciting wines I have found.

Part 2 of the Article – published the following week

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine visiting Mas de Daumas Gassac

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine visiting Mas de Daumas Gassac

Continued greetings from the vineyards of Provence, Languedoc, Chateauneuf du Pape and Bandol in the south of France. The sun has been joined by an unseasonal mini Mistral wind that swirls above us, and hammers the fishing boats in the harbor against each other. Yet, with nature roaring, the insects prove more resilient than the boats and continue to feed on my weary legs. At least the driving has stopped, and with it the torturous spiting of all the great wines that I have been tasting. Samples fill the corners of the house I am renting, and my 2 year old daughter is beginning to call it Daddy’s shop. Even sadder, I will have to dump the majority of them before I leave.

After I left you last week, I spent a fantastic day with Samuel Guibert in Mas Daumas Gassac. The “Lafite of the Languedoc” certainly lives up to its name and it is truly a magical valley. After a very pleasant lunch in a nearby village, we drove through the valley on Samuels jeep (no car would survive 5 minutes). The vineyard is spread out over an amazing natural amphitheatre – flat, steep and everything in between – see the photo. Rather than raze the whole plot, they decided to keep the natural boundaries in place and what you get is small independent portions of vines scattered throughout the valley. When the family bought this land, it was farmed traditionally with the horse. No chemical fertilizers have ever been on this land (the horse did ALL the work), and this is an integral part of their philosophy. Bordering the valley is the famous forest that Sameul’s father, Aimé, so famously defended from the Californian wine giant, Robert Mondavi. For those of you who remember Falcon Crest, the Mondavi’s were supposedly the blueprint for the family in the TV series. However, this would be completely irrelevant if the Guibert’s were not making fantastic wine at all price points. Samuel has promised to come over to Red Nose Wine next year for a very special tasting / dinner. I can’t wait.

Louis XV of France was once asked the secret of his eternal youth and he replied, “the wines of Bandol”. Now Louis may have told the truth, as the Mourvèdre based wines are delicious, but he did not have to drive from Martigues to Bandol to taste them. Any map will tell you that it is motorway nearly all of the way, and it should take under an hour. Considering I have covered more than 1,500km this week, it is one of my shorter trips. What they don’t tell you is that a part of the motorway goes through central Marseille, and there is a tunnel section that makes Jack Lynch’s look like the gap under Laffensbridge near Killenaule. As I entered Marseille, the traffic got busier, and the lanes got narrower. However, when we entered the tunnel, already being bullied into doing the maximum 130km/hr, every car suddenly found another gear and I found myself in the middle of a scary computer game. I was getting flashed and beeped and people were jumping lanes in the dark. There are actually exits off of the tunnel and people suddenly realize they have missed theirs and just veer at huge speeds to make it. The rules of skiing apply it seems. It is the responsibility of the person behind not to hit the idiot in front. After surviving the tunnel, they then have the audacity to ask you to pay a toll of €2.70. Don’t pay the ferryman. You have no choice if you want off of the mad merry-go-round. I was dreaming of Laffensbridge by the time I finally got to Bandol and its picture postcard wine country. I am still not sure the general wine buying public will have the stomach for Bandol when it is young, or the patience to wait for it to age. I am undecided whether to import into Red Nose Wine. I did taste some great examples of the wine though. I may bring in a little of the Rosé and the Red and see what happens. Incidentally, I took the long way home via Aix en Provence.

I was trying to get under this city at speed

I was trying to get under this city at speed

The next article they let me publish will be from Ireland, and I will keep you updated on how the insect bites are adapting to the Irish weather. I know you care. More importantly, I will return to a more structured piece on wine. I just thought you might like the peak into the wine buying routes.

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”

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

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.

Red Nose Song – Joni Mitchell “A Case of You”

February 14th, 2010

Being Valentines Day, it is as good as any to start a new section of the blog, where I match great wines to great songs. One of the great singer-songwriters is Joni Mitchell and she wrote a great lovesong using a case of wine as the analogy. While I am tempted to match it to a great wine like Chateau Margaux or Romanee Conti, I think it would be hard to get through a case of such a wine. Also, I don’t sell them :) . So in the spirit of the song’s title, I am going to pick the wonderful Chateau Vignelaure, which is one of the great value wines out there. It is also very smooth and easy to drink, and hard to resist. Robert Parker famously described Vignelaure as “one of the showpiece properties not only of Provence, but of France.” I have bottle number 00001 in my private cellar and there were a few nights i nearly opened it. I am keeping it, so I now hold 3 or 4 in the house at all times, just in case.

Chateau Vignelaure

If anyone else would like to propose a song and wine link, please post a comment below. In the meantime, Joni Mitchell.

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