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The Birth of Red Nose Wine … How it All Began

September 21st, 2016

Once upon a time, and engineer moved to France …

The birth of a wine business … the weeks the banks pulled down their shutters on the world economy, Red Nose Wine – the difficult child born out of 2 years living in France and an MBA on my return to Ireland. We are 8 years old… this is how it all began.

Article – A Room with a View

August 3rd, 2010

The tour continues ( and not a bicycle in sight )

I promise I will not mention France for a number of weeks when this series of articles conclude. It is very difficult to be in the middle of this wine tour and not write about who I meet and the land they work. This is the reason I got into this line of work and what I hope distinguishes me from the commodity wine sellers. I travel to source the wines and sit around the kitchen table with the winemakers. They usually have to wipe their hand in their pants before shaking mine and I appreciate their connection with the land. It’s all about reducing the links in the chain from the land to the ultimate consumer, you. The next time you are picking your wine in the supermarket, ask the assistant about the winemaker’s thoughts on the vintage for the wine you are buying. Irish Americans often talk of searching for a sense of place. I think wine is also searching to express the place it comes from. I am surrounded by completely different wines, people and terroirs where I write this article. This is why I like French wine so much and why up until 15 years ago it was the first choice of much of Europe and the US.

My palate feels itchy – it must be La Clape ( boom boom )

Even though I am technically in one region as I write this (Languedoc), the wines are changing so dramatically over the course of a mile. I was a vineyard yesterday near Narbonne, in a region known as La Clape. An unfortunate name, but very good wine. The vineyard stretched from the gorse hills that sit above the main house, down to the Mediterranean Sea and the style of wine changed dramatically, even with the same grapes. The hills saw very concentrated intense wines that required oak aging and needed food. The vines by the sea were exposed to the wind more and were much softer and fruit driven. 500 yards in distance but a million miles in style.

View through the vines to the Mediterranean Sea

 

 

 

View through the vines to the Mediterranean Sea

A Tipperary – Kilkenny Clash before September

This week I want to tell you about 2 vineyards in particular. One is a wine I already bring in and is owned by an Irish man (from Kilkenny – unfortunate when discussing hurling) and is called Domaine des Anges. In fact you can enjoy it in Befanis restaurant in Clonmel as well as Red Nose Wine. It lies in the shadow of Mount Ventoux, which means the mountain of wind. The vineyard is less than 30 minutes away from another wine village called Chateauneuf du Pape. You may or may not have heard of it, but its wines are well regarded but can be pricey. Domaine des Anges is not pricey at all. Mr. McGuiness offered me a room for the night and while I would have slept anywhere, I got a gorgeous room in his very classic old style Mas. The view was amazing and the shutters halted the morning sun but the breeze was allowed to sneak through into the room. After the heat wave of the Riviera, I was delighted to ignore air conditioning and sleep a peaceful nights rest. Of course this could not be achieved without a long discussion over various bottles of wine with the patron. I would like to tell you I retired to the bed before midnight but I would be lying. There were important matters to discuss, but for the life of me I can’t remember what they were. For the sake of closure, I think it involved Mr. McGuiness promising me the use of his gorgeous house to write my book. For those of you who have similar merry aspirations, there is a fantastic house for rent on the estate, complete with swimming pool and the nearby wine cellar is a plus. We can discuss the rent over a bottle of Domaine des Anges, Red, White or Rose. I should mention that his family were staying there with him and all made me feel very welcome indeed.

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine with Domaine des Anges in the background

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine with Domaine des Anges in the background

The following day I did indeed visit Chateauneuf du Pape, but the day after that I went in search of the next big superstar wine. The morning was spent with a genuine superstar wine, Mas de Daumas Gassac. Those of you who met Samuel Guibert in April will be glad to know his public invite to visit the famous estate still stands.

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine with Samuel Guibert of Mas de Daumas Gassac in France

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine with Samuel Guibert of Mas de Daumas Gassac in France

After my meeting with Samuel I went to meet two winemakers that are being talked about in the same breath as some of the big money Bordeaux wines were 50 years ago. Every major critic the world over is going crazy over a little wine called La Péira. Most of you will not have heard of it as it is mainly talked about within the trade. Suffice to say it is very sought after. I met the winemaker Jérémie Depierre and followed him down a very remote road to an unmarked building in the middle of nowhere. The wine has become so famous so quickly they have not even finished the building and are showing no sign of welcome anywhere. I have been ‘down this road’ before in Bordeaux and it was not worth the hype so I was not getting too excited. Then I tasted the wines. It was one of those wow moments. The entry level wine was spectacular and the middle wine even more so. The main wine itself was actually too complex and until it gets some age in the bottle is virtually undrinkable. In saying that, by the time it gets the necessary age, this wine will have multiplied in price by a huge amount. It is only made in tiny amounts and if I do end up bringing it in, it will be in minuscule amounts and it will be a case of get it while it’s cheap.

Jérémie Depierre of La Péira

Jérémie Depierre of La Péira

As I finish this article on a Saturday night by the sea, the room next to me is playing Otis Reading, “Sittin’ on a Dock of the Bay”. From my Bay, in the south of France, I bid you adieu and if anyone wants more information on any of the wines I mentioned, please call in, and I’ll wax lyrical to the point of boredom. Next is Carcassonne, then Bergerac and then 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”

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist July 29 2010

Article – The Streets of London

June 3rd, 2010

There is an old Joni Mitchell song that goes, “Sittin’ in a park in Paris France, reading the news and it sure looks bad”. I always thought that it was a cafe she sat in, and not a park. I was sure about it until i finally bought the album. Its funny how you can be 100% sure of something and still be wrong. Maybe it’s a male thing. The news sure looks bad today as I sit in a cafe in Clonmel, Ireland. Our beloved hurling team had a very bad day in the office and I had to drive to Cork this morning ( the day after the match ) to collect wine in the warehouse. The lads in the bond are avid hurling fans and let me have it between the eyes. I would imagine Liam Sheedy will have something more to say this year. At least the weather has picked up and is trying to help us get over it.

London – in search of gold

I put back on my travelling hat these last few weeks. I decided at the very last minute to go to London for the annual wine fair. I got the flight cheap and the hotel even cheaper and said why not. There was so much to see and do over the 2 days I was there that I could probably write 4 articles. We’ll see how this one goes down. I was also at the Wine Australia event held in Croke Park. Will I be back there again this year? Enough hurling references, my French friends are lost. I was told that my articles have a little following in the south of France among a bunch of winemakers. It’s one of those things where they might be laughing with you or at you – I’m not sure. What to talk about in regard to the London Fair is difficult to decide. There really was a huge amount of things to see and taste, and the organisation of the event was top notch. It was very different from the French shows and there was a lot more grouping of regions. For example, Italy came together and sectioned off different regions, so if you were looking for a Pinot Grigio, you could sit down and chat with Veneto winemakers and specify exactly what you were looking for.

Must I drink Bordeaux in the morning

There were also a lot of high end chateau who came together from Bordeaux and I bumped into one of them I knew early on the 2nd day. This was great except for the fact that I now had to taste varying vintages of Bordeaux at 10 o clock in the morning, including barrel samples of the already famous 2009 vintage. It is seen as rude not to taste everyone’s wine so by 11 o clock, I had tasted approximately 40 rich, dry red wines. Normally you would save these wines until the end of the day as they tire out your palate. I had to take a 30 minute break and regain my composure. And people think this is an easy job. It beats engineering anyway.

Meeting the famous folk

A real treat in London was going to a tutored tasting on regional French wines with Tim Atkin of BBC’s Saturday Kitchen. He is one the rare “Master of Wine” recipients and an expert on cheap but good quality regional wines. Basically, he told us about the new rule changes that are coming for the traditional Vins de Pays wines and how they will be more regionally based – more on that to follow. What was particularly satisfying is that at the start of the tasting, he name checked Mas de Daumas Gassac as the pioneers of quality wine from the unheralded areas of France. Those of you who attended our tasting with Samuel Guibert a few months back will have heard him discuss the upcoming changes. The tasting with Tim was a real stamp of approval for what I have been trying to do in terms of finding these kinds of wines. I had a great chat with him afterwards and he is as friendly as you see on the telly. It is always nice when that happens.

Gary Gubbins and Tim Atkin

Gary Gubbins and Tim Atkin

I will return to specific parts of the London show in the future, but now for a Monty Python moment, i.e. something completely different. I am not sure if any of you take the time to read my blog but lately it has really taken off. It is basically an unsanitized version of the article. I recently posted a blog about the whole concept of Bring your own wine to a dinner party or to a BBQ. I raised the point that maybe it is OK to bring a bottle for the house but to have your own bottle to enjoy as well. Why should you have to endure the rubbish wine that happens to be open on the table? Would you force a Guinness drinker to drink Heineken, or give them some cheap and nasty discount beer? The blog caused quite a stir in the blogosphere and please feel free to view or add comments at (www.rednosewine.com/blog)

A quick word of good luck to Kieran Quigley, who has recently taken over the Wine Buff in Clonmel, who have long been another champion of quality independent wines. I look forward to heated debate about both wine and his generous golf handicap.

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”

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine with Tim Atkin MW

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine with Tim Atkin MW

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”

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

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

Article – Tastings, Horses and Bridgestone

January 22nd, 2010

It is positively balmy out today as I write this article, at least when compared to the trauma of last week’s cold weather. Will the improved weather inspire an article about wines born of the heat – I don’t think so – we are not quite there yet. On the radio today, they spoke of Blue Monday and the despair that is out in the country. I turned it off and threw the negativity in the bin. It is true that this is the slowest part of the year, and retailers struggle as people hide away. However, poor sales aside, I would suggest that it is a great time to plan out the new year, and in the wine world that means trade shows. My calendar for this month and next is filling up with trips to Dublin to slurp, smell, swish and spit out the wines of the world. There are portfolio tastings from bigger suppliers, trade shows put on by different embassies, and many other connotations and excuses for me to taste my way to some interesting new wines. The reality is that I might find one wine in every hundred tasted. Ideally, though, these Irish shows don’t offer me too much, unless they have wineries that are looking for Irish representation. It is always good to keep tasting new wines, and get used to the nuances of changing vintages, so that is one the main reasons to go to these shows. While I hold wines from some of the best importers in the country, my core offering will always be made up of the wineries that I import directly from.

With this in mind, I am delighted to say I will be attending one of the best shows in the world at the end of January. It is in based in Montpellier in the south of France, and hosts the very best in small, family estates from France, Spain, Italy, South Africa, Argentina and many other countries. What they all have in common is they are part of the organic and/or biodynamic wine movement. I have written about this type of wine recently, but suffice to say more and more of the world’s top vineyards have converted or are in the process of converting. I will talk more about the show in an article I will write while at the show, as well as numerous blog pieces I will post to www.rednosewine.com/blog including video footage direct from the fair, so be sure to log on from next Tuesday (January 26th). With this in mind, I really need to get my hair cut before I go. There is nothing worse than a scruffy video blog. It is easy to get carried away at these shows but I never buy or even promise to buy at them. I find it a great way to meet existing suppliers, get introduced and recommended to new contacts by them, and find interesting wines that you can then arrange to follow up with. I always try to physically visit the vineyards I import from. It builds up trust, and I can personally see how they make the wine and if they do as they promise. There are too many stories of wines tasting very different at the show when compared to when it arrives. They also really appreciate it as well, as it offers them a chance to “sell” their dream to the customer. Everyone I buy from believes in their product and their way of life. “You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one”. I like to think that passion is evident in the wine you take home from Red Nose Wine, and especially when compared to the commodity wines on the market. There is one vineyard I met last year and his wines were sublime and very well priced. I arranged to meet him at his vineyard last summer, which I did. I travelled three hours out of my way and we agreed a deal, but he has yet to export his wines. It is a very small allocation but I think he had been badly stung from an importer, i.e. he was not paid, so is very hesitant to go down that road again. I will give him one last chance when we meet for a 3rd time.

And now for something completely different as the Pythons would say. There was some celebration over the last week in Liam Dalys pub in O Connell Street, Clonmel as Sean Daly’s horse won at 14-1 in Thurles. I had given them some champagne glasses for New Year’s as well as selling them some bubbly, so I was also delighted for the win. He will have to carry lots of bubbly from now on, just in case. Unfortunately I did not have any money on the horse, but I am not bitter about the times I did back the horse in the past, and it lost. I can rejoice in Sean and his fellow syndicate member’s happiness. I was once in a greyhound syndicate with Sean and let’s just say it did not go so well, so Sean knows the highs and lows. I would love to tell you about the greyhound but I am not ready to talk about it yet. As well as missing the race last Sunday, I also missed the celebration in the pub last Sunday night. On a slightly more relevant note, Hickey’s Bakery, The Cookie Jar and Red Nose Wine all won Bridgestone awards in the new guide. We are all part of the Tipperary Food Producers Network and are proud to join the other members in the guide. We must have been doing something right this last year and a bit. Until the next article from France, I will ignore the January blues and look forward and plan for the spring.

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 Jan 21 1010

The origins of my miseducation in Wine

January 14th, 2010

Many years ago, I used to live near Rue Mouffetard in Paris and would wander along the wine shops and sample and taste and sample some more. Every few months, the vinyeards would travel up and put up stalls for a few days on the square and you could buy at vineyard prices. I remember spending a stupid amount of money on an old Pommard, which i still have. I am too afraid to open it in case it wasn’t worth the money. Rene Miller and his band are regulars all over Paris and if you are very going, you should definetly try and find them. They tend to play in the open air around Moufftard, Notre Dame, Ille de Louis as well as some bars at night… I met them and listened to them many times, but they never asked me to join the band :(

We used to have dancing at the bottom of the hill every Sunday morning. Great hangover cure !!
I miss Paris in Springtime, I miss Paris in the fall… I miss Paris, do you miss Paris, blah blah blah blah blah blah… the bad weather is getting to me… until we meet again Paris.

“Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.”

December 30th, 2009

The turkey is well and truly gone and the last of the wine bottles have been taken to the bottle bank. We are all just about ready to start the useless promises and resolutions for the New Year. Ink never refused paper, and my articles are surely proof of that. Just as we are about to capsize into the sea of good living, we realize that New Years Eve has to be endured. No more wine, no more food, no more ice – we have enough. Once more into the breach and all of that jazz. If Pinot Noir was the wine of choice for Turkey, then Champagne has to be the way to jump into the next decade. Tradition dictates and we follow. At least, we used to follow. That drink of kings and queens is on the decline. In recent years, the sales have plummeted to be replaced by Cava and Prosecco, their Spanish and Italian neighbours.
This is not entirely a fair comparison as the process involved can vary hugely. They tend to use the much cheaper Charmat method which uses stainless steel tanks for the secondary fermentation. Champagne is a sparkling wine that can only come from the region of Champagne in northern France. Nothing else can legally call itself Champagne, although you will see bending of this rule in such ‘delights’ as Californian Champagne.

This decline has a lot to do with the Champenoise people themselves. I have continually searched for well priced champagne and have met with many small family vineyards on my travels to France but could not find the price / quality ratio. I won’t give up, but to be honest, there isn’t really a market for it, so I won’t rush in. They won’t loosen the pricing – the fact that the duty is double in Ireland for sparkling wine does not help the situation. In their defence they use the “method traditonalle” to make the bubbles. After primary fermentation and bottling, a second alcoholic fermentation occurs in the bottle. This second fermentation is induced by adding several grams of yeast and several grams of rock sugar. According to the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée a minimum of one and a half years is required to completely develop all the flavour. For years where the harvest is exceptional, a millesimé is declared – you really pay top dollar for these wines. In general though, most champagnes are of the blended variety – different years in the same wine. The grapes used are also a blend – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The real labour in the production is the remuage – the manipulation ( often manual ) of each bottle, in order that the lees ( deposit of residual yeast ) settle in the neck of the bottle. This is later frozen and taken out and the bottles resealed. The famous monk Dom Perignon is credited with accidentally inventing champagne many vintages ago, and his famous explanation of “Come quickly, I am tasting the stars” is often quoted. It’s a good story and true in many regards and he was revolutionary in the advancement of techniques, especially in bottles and corks. Necessity was indeed the mother of invention because without the tougher bottles and new corking, the bottles kept exploding. Just don’t mention Christopher Merret, the English scientist and physician who documented the process a few years earlier. Of course there was no blogging or twitter back then, so how was Dom to know.

Champagne was for many years the tipple of choice for the rich and famous. I suppose it still is in some circles. Being neither rich nor famous, it does not feature heavily in mine. That could be due to the fact me and the bubbles don’t get on. I can drink one glass, but after that the bubbles make there way up to the sensible and sensitive part of my brain. I start to babble, even more than normal and suddenly start to care what people are saying. Very unlike me. Basically, I can’t handle the stuff. It puts me on my ear. I would have been useless in the roaring twenties when it was the only tipple with which to wet your whistle. Some people who it did agree with and who left us some wonderful quotes include :

“I only drink Champagne when I’m happy, and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I am not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.” (Lily Bollinger)

“Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.”
(F. Scott Fitzgerald)

And last but by no means least, is one that might be perceived as a little dated, but the bubbles are making me do it. “One holds a bottle of red wine by the neck, a woman by the waist, and a bottle of Champagne by the derriere.” (Mark Twain)

So, as 2010 approaches I do hope you make realistic resolutions. If I could suggest but one – for that detox period in January. Drink less wine to be sure, but drink better wine.

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”.

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

Icons of the World Stand Up

December 18th, 2009

It’s that time of year when we reflect on what’s gone before and we look forward to what’s on the way. Considering what has passed, may I quote the great Bob Dylan, “Let me forget about today until tomorrow”. Any by tomorrow I mean many years from now. Onwards and upwards and all of that type of positive sentiment. During the heady days of my youth when I was not as ‘sophisticated’ and insensitive to criticism as I am now, I used to read a little bit. Once I got used to the language I really enjoyed Shakespeare. I found it all very relevant to the modern world and that is probably why it is held up so high in literature. To quote the hip kids of the street, he was down with it. By writing this last sentence I have condemned myself to never having being in anyway hip. Well I don’t care and never have, so that probably makes me hip in a different sort of way – what do the hip kids think? Are they reading this article, do they read the blog or do they follow me on twitter? Maybe I am needy after all. Anyway, there is a famous speech in Henry V where the good king rallies the troops as they face almost certain death on the battlefield. His cousin Westmoreland had a moan about the situation and Henry launched into speech which by its end had made you feel sorry for anyone who wasn’t about to die in this battle. They would not have this chance at immortality. “We happy few, we band of brothers.. on St Crispin’s Day”… Some retailers might feel that this year has been one long St. Crispin’s Day, so that is why I suggest we look forward, not back. With that in mind, I will leave the best of the year lists to the papers and magazines. I will talk about wine, and in particular – very expensive iconic wines that most of us can never expect to taste, at least not this year. But once St. Crispin’s Day has passed and until that day shall come, I will give you an alternative that is affordable.

First up, the famous Chateau Pétrus. This is a wine from the right bank of Bordeaux and in particular the village of Pomerol. Considering all the bad press that Merlot gets, it is strange that one of the worlds most sought after wines is predominately Merlot. It is only 11 hectares in size and produces on average 2,500 cases per vintage. The wine has many fans, and sells for huge money. The current price in London for a bottle of 2005 is 2,800 sterling. I have held it in my hand but never tasted it. I have tasted its next door neighbours and hold a very good 2005 Pomerol from just down the road in the shop that sells for 26 euros. Alternatively, I have a very good Lalande de Pomerol for 19 that gives you the idea without the pricing. However, if you get invited to a party and they are serving Pétrus, don’t miss the chance.

Next up is Burgundy’s famous Pinot Noir, Romanee Conti – I covered this in a previous article but suffice to say, this is the one I want the most in my collection. I have a 1er Cru Nuits St Georges for 55 euros that gives you an idea of what to expect. This will be my Christmas dinner wine.

From Chateauneuf du Papes there is the famous Au Vieux Telegraphe or the new icon Clos du Papes. I have tasted these and even own a few bottles. Clos du Papes is owned by the Avril family who’s daughter is married to Bill Kelly of Kelly’s in Rosslare. For such an iconic wine, it is very reasonably priced. You can pick it up for about 55 to 60 euros a bottle. A very nice alternative is Bosquet des Papes which I sell on offer for Christmas for 24. Both are the traditional style wines and typical of the real authentic wines of centuries gone by.

Italian wines are less well known for iconic wines and vineyards, but more for iconic wine types and chief among them are Brunello di Montalcino, Amarone della Valpolicella and Barolo. These are very different wines from Tuscany, Veneto and Piedmont respectively. What they all share is a necessity for food and age if possible. At our recent Italian tasting, we had a huge response to the Amarone and it was easy to see why it won the Decanter World Wine Award Gold Medal, as did the Barolo. There are countless other icons from around the world and to list them all would be a book – in fact, many such books exist. I have a few of them in the shop if you want a peek.

The good news is that we are taking the excise duty off all wines immediately, even though the wines cleared customs at the top rate. Our little Christmas gift to you, and also, in the run up to Christmas we are open 7 days a week and will be opening many of the wines I have just mentioned. Come in and taste the difference. Thanks to everyone for reading the articles all year and especially for those of you who called in and ‘tasted the difference’. Remember, we deliver nationwide, so don’t get caught without good wine this Christmas. Log in or call in – you are more than welcome.

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 Dec 17 2009

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