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Archive for November, 2009

Italian Tasting – December 10th

November 28th, 2009

We are delighted to annouce that Gerry Gunnigan of Liberty Wines will give a tasting on Italian Wines on Thursday December 10th in Nuala’s Cafe in Hickey’s Bakery in Clonmel. There is a great range of wines on show and more details are to follow. Our last tasting sold out, so be sure to book early. Only €10 per ticket.

Thanks to John Wilson in The Irish Times for his very welcome plug.


The Latest Article – “Baboons like Pinot”

November 26th, 2009

Depression has overtaken me this week and after the robbery in Paris, I am finding it very difficult to find any joy in sport, so I must find it in wine. We had a very well attended tasting last week in the middle of the floods. I was amazed at the turnout considering the conditions. Nuala’s café in Hickey’s Bakery proved a fantastic venue where Nuala, Paddy and Helen put on a great spread with some help from Paul Smith earlier in the day. A huge thank you to all of them. The great food really complimented the wines. Joyce Austin, who was over from New Zealand wants me to convince Nuala to sell wine by the glass, as she thought the place was an absolute gem. Negotiations will begin in earnest next week. I was personally delighted that the tasting was not a French one, as it could have proved a hard sell with the week that was in it. It now looks like I won’t fashion a wine trip to South Africa next summer, so based on my last trip there a few years ago I will tell you all about the history of its wines. Not that any of us really care about South Africa anymore. Thierry, you broke the heart of a nation.

Historically, a large part of the wine trade in South Africa was controlled and oppressed by a national cooperative called the KWV and they had universal prices and quality simply was not an issue. The 1970s changed all of this and the winemakers were free to do what they wanted. The end of Apartheid in 1994 offered them a world market, and their popularity has been steadily growing since. The Mediterranean style climate paired with the cooling Benguela current from Antarctica offer fantastic conditions. The Cape Doctor wind sweeps through the mountains and blows the fungi away, much like the Mistral does in the Rhone Valley. A problem the French winemakers don’t have are with monkeys, or as Inspector Jacques Clouseau would say, “minkeys”. Baboons love the delicate Pinot Noir grapes, and electric fences must be used to protect them. Baboons it would seem have good taste, and have a definite preference for this noble grape. The other grapes that are grown in South Africa include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Cinsault, Merlot, Shiraz and Zinfandel. There is also a particular hybrid that was created by a Dr. Perold when he crossed Pinot Noir and Cinsault in 1926. We know it as Pinotage. On the white front, we have Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Colombard and Sauvignon Blanc.

In terms of areas of production, the main player is the Cape, which can be broken down into Constantia, Stellenbosch, Paarl and Tulbagh. An interesting fact (or not), about Constantia is that its desert wine was recommended in Jane Austin’s “Sense and Sensibility”. The area we would all be familiar with would be Stellenbosch, and the famous Waterford Estate is well known to Red Nose Wine customers. The Deise have their own wine it would seem. Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz are the blockbusters here. The granite based soil offers quality reds that mirror Bordeaux and the sandstone to the west offer fine whites. Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc are the stars in this regard. South Africa has a huge diversity of choice but is really still playing catch up on the world market. After the World Cup, they might move to the next level, unless there is another travesty of justice of course. Don’t forget to log onto the blog at or follow the ranting on Twitter –

For anyone who would like more information and can’t make it into the shop, please feel free to contact me at

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Wine Photos 234


Live from Provence – Chateau Margui

November 23rd, 2009


Greetings from the sunny south of France. I could take no more of the rain, so i decided to jump on a plane and visit some of my suppliers. Today I met with the every hospitable Philippe Guillanton of Chateau Margui. His wines are growing in status all over France and beyond. He sells out of the wines every year and is on restaurant lists in the best tables in France. After the visit today, we went to eat at Alain Ducasse’s restaurant , Hostelliere de L’Abbaye in the village of La Celle, just outside Brignoles in Provence. What a treat, and while the cough i am carrying didn’t allow me to savour the food and wine as I might, such was its flavour, it traversed my ailment. i am blaming the plane and the dry air in the hotel for the cough. There has been a lot more work done to Margui since my last visit in May 2008, and the wines are evolving as well. As with many parts of France, the 2009 vendage was a huge success and they are expecting great things. The 2007 Red just arrived into bond and will be on the shelves next week.
As you can see, it is a beautiful place.

Philippe at the main door of the house
Gary Gubbins wondering if it is still raining back in Ireland

Another view

Another view

A short video tour with Philippe and wind blowing in the background.

Professional version

The latest article – “The X Factor”

November 20th, 2009

This article sees the return of Gerry, the wine merchant with a much more interesting life than mine. Last weekend, with memories of his wine covered shirt from the Italy match fresh in his mind, he travelled to Dublin to see the playoff with Ireland and France. To justify this little jaunt, he needed to visit a few restaurants and see what kind of wine is making its way into the eateries of our fair capital. The match came and went and Wednesday is not yet here, so I can’t really tell you if Gerry and the Irish nation will be drinking Waterford Estate wine from Stellenbosch in South Africa next year. We can only hope. He did visit a few restaurants and wine shops on the day of the match. However it was after the match that he seemed to take an accidental turn into celebrity culture. In Jurys Hotel he bumped into Ronnie Whelan and Paul McGrath and when he went outside to try get a taxi, he had to compete with Bernard Dunne. As it happens, the taxi-man wanted stupid money so both Gerry and Bernard agreed to keep looking. When he finally got back to the city, he met his party for food and ended up beside the parents of a very famous rugby player. I won’t break Gerry’s trust, but their son is very tall, and has red hair and captained the kings of the jungle. By all accounts they were lovely people and told some hilarious stories that I can’t repeat. To top it all off, during the meal and a fantastic bottle of Chianti, Sinead Cusack, the actress passed the table, and someone knocked a bottle of wine over. As luck would have it, the bottle was empty and after apologies were concluded, she had a lovely chat about Tuscany and its wines. She and her husband Jeremy had made a film with Bertolucci there a few years ago. To paraphrase Dom Perignon, “come quickly, I am drinking with the stars”. Dublin was indeed alive last weekend.

I am sure Gerry would have met Louis Walsh and JedWard were they not in London performing in the X Factor. I will try and ultimately fail to bite my tongue about what I think about this show. At the risk of offending a nation, I hate it. It represents everything that is bad about music and television. But the lights are bright and they sell it very well. This is very much like the vast majority of the wine that is sold in this country. You see, there was a point to the celebrity story, apart from the very obvious name dropping. The marketing people know how to sell this type of wine, and even give you the impression that it is value for money, while a lot of the time, it is overpriced. It all comes down to substance and Bob Dylan or Tom Waits would never win the X Factor because they tell the truth. A real wine also tells the truth. It shows you the heart and soul of the people who made it and tells you about the history of their family and region. It won’t compromise and it won’t be for everybody. But the beauty of wine is that there are so many styles to choose from. You can try a different one and find your taste. I like jazz, blues, rock and folk music but I would like to think that I can appreciate the good pop music that’s out there. Take That are just not my kind of thing, but they have good tunes – they have the X Factor. How many of the factory wines offer the X Factor. The acts that go on the show get one song in the charts and fade away to nothing. There are always exceptions, but you can waste a lot of time and money finding them. Ultimately, you don’t remember them. I can still almost taste some of the great wines I had the good fortune to drink over the years. A lot of them were cheap wines, but had a lot of soul.

The restaurants and cafés that were visited in Dublin were much more adventurous in their wines than the regional restaurants tend to be. Of course they have a large tourist and business footfall and I can understand this decision from a commercial perspective, especially in these dark times. In Dublin, there was a lot of wine being drunk at the 28 euro bracket. While not cheap, the wines were very high quality and the margin was not as heavy as it might have been. This was offset however by groups buying the 2nd bottle. The chances to eat in these restaurants and meet the celebrities are rare, but we can buy a nice fillet steak from Pat Whelan and other local butchers, as well as potatoes and vegetables from the local farmers in the market. We can then match it with a wine that this artisan food deserves. Coming up to Christmas I am planning on matching foods to wine a little more. If anyone has any particular food they would like matched, please let me know. Don’t forget to log onto the blog at or follow the ranting on Twitter –

For anyone who would like more information and can’t make it into the shop, please feel free to contact me at

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”


Great Tasting last night

November 20th, 2009

We had a really great tasting in Nuala’s cafe in the historic Hickey’s bakery with Joyce Austin last night. The floods were rising but the wine was flowing as well. We expected some people not to make it, but in the end we had overcapacity. The place was jointed.
The major winners on the night from a wine perspective were The Woolaston Pinot Gris, the Tussock Sauvignon Blanc, the Muddy Water Riesling and as always, the star of the show was Muddy Water Slowhand Pinot Noir. With only 285 cases made, it is a real treat. I can only see its star rising… The other contender for the star of the night was Nuala’s Cafe. It is classic French cafe style ( we will forget T Henry for a moment ) and Nuala, Paddy and Helen laid on some absolutely fantastic food. It really was top end and it complimented the wines wonderfully.
tastingNov09 2

A great night had by all and Joyce played a stormer as usual. If she is coming to a town near you, don’t miss it….

Wine Spectator 2009 Top 10 – Part 1

November 18th, 2009

Wine Spectator Top 10 – Wines 10 to 6

Number 10
Brancaia – Toscana Tre 2007
93 points / $20
25,000 cases made
Brancaia consists of two properties in Tuscany—the Widmer family’s original two vineyards in the heart of Chianti Classico, and their younger estate on the coast, Brancaia in Maremma. Barbara Kronenberg-Widmer, daughter of the Swiss founders, oversees production with assistance from top Tuscan enologist Carlo Ferrini. Tre, the label’s third wine, is a blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from all three Brancaia vineyards. The 2007 represents the wine’s highest score to date.

Number 9
Merry Edwards
Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley 2007
96 points / $29
3,880 cases made
Merry Edwards, whose eponymous label also produces Pinot Noir in Sonoma, shows her magic here with Sauvignon Blanc: This wine earns the highest rating to date for the varietal in the Golden State. Edwards, who prefers the aromatic Sauvignon Blanc Musqué clone, barrel-ferments the wine and performs bâtonnage (stirring on the lees) while it ages in barrel, which she says adds body and showcases riper flavors.

Number 8
Colli della Toscana
Centrale Flaccianello 2006
99 points / $110
5,000 cases made
The 2006 Flaccianello earned the honor of being the highest-rated wine in this year’s tasting report on Tuscany. It’s a pure Sangiovese produced from vines more than 30 years old, grown in the hillside vineyard of Flaccianello, near the town of Panzano in the Chianti Classico region. The Manetti family has owned this historic estate since 1968. The 2006 was aged in Allier oak barrels for 18 months, then spent an additional year in bottle before release.

Number 7
Renato Ratti
Barolo Marcenasco 2005
96 points / $44
5,000 cases made
This Piedmont red comes from the Ratti family’s hillside vineyards known as Marcenasco, below the village of La Morra. The 25-year-old vines are planted on steep slopes facing west, providing the Nebbiolo maximum exposure for optimum ripening. The Rattis recently completed construction of an ultramodern winery, which has enabled them to fine-tune the winemaking. After fermentation, the wine is aged in a mix of Slovenian oak casks and smaller, neutral oak barrels.

Number 6
Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Signature 2006
94 points / $42
7,650 cases made
Pritchard Hill, in the foothills east of St. Helena, has become a hot spot for Cabernet in the past decade, but Donn and Molly Chappellet recognized its potential as early as 1967. Signature is their flagship wine, culled from estate vineyards planted on shallow volcanic soils 1,000 feet or more above the Napa Valley floor. The 2006 is 76 percent Cabernet Sauvignon; winemaker Phillip Corallo-Titus added 18 percent Merlot plus dashes of Malbec and Petit Verdot.

2 Great Tastings coming up

November 17th, 2009

Hello Wine Lovers

Just a quick one. Don’t forget the New Zealand tasting this Thursday November 19th @ 8pm.
We are just about sold out, but we will squeeze in 1 or 2 more.

However, we are also having a very special Italian tasting on December 10th – venue Nuala’s Cafe.
We will have some truely special wines open, from cheap and cheerful to stunning deep Red classics.

We might even get some food in for the evening… It will be close to Christmas. We all need a treat.

Wine Show in Cork this w/e

November 13th, 2009

Watch out for the Good Wine show in Cork this weekend.
At the Clarion Hotel – Admission is €15
Friday and Saturday

Latest Newsletter – Red Nose News

November 13th, 2009


Another week and the weather has really gone bananas – rain, sun, wind, cold, mild… make up your mind.

The great discounts continue at Red Nose Wine – follow the link

I am waiting on delivery of 4 new wines today that are pitched very competitively.
A Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir from Italy @ €8.50 each.
A Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay @ €8.00 each.
The courier has not arrived as I write this, but is due soon.
As soon as they are in and I get a picture of them, they will go on the website.

Anyone who wants to order online and collect it, that is no problem.
Just let me know and I’ll send you a code for no delivery charges. Delivery is free for order over €150

And the minimum order for delivery is only 6 bottles.
Also, with the big match looming, I have been wondering how to treat my French wines.

I do love my French wine, but this week have found myself having the New Zealand and Italian wines a little more. If Ireland win, watch this space, we might do a little promotion on French wine to celebrate.

Don’t forget, the New Zealand wine tasting is filling up for next week. Thursday 19th @ 8pm

€10 / ticket and Nuala’s café promises a very cosy atmosphere.

C’mon the boys in Green

Have a great weekend !


Latest Newspaper Article ““Ernest Hemingway and the New Zealand Wine Tasting”

November 12th, 2009

The Nationalist Newspaper, November 12 2009

The winter is upon us and my toes are very cold. The week since we last ‘chatted’ has been eventful to say the least. The website finally went live and I have been tweaking the little bits and pieces since. I imagine I will be changing it for the rest of my life. To quote Ernest Hemingway, we could call it “a moveable feast”. A successful website has to move and be very fluid. Lots of blogging and tweeting on Twitter. Basically, I have to write what you could call, the uncensored version of this article every 2 or 3 days and get people to click on the website as much as they can. Fun indeed for the computer generation both young and old.

I was watching something on TV this week and I heard another Hemingway quote I am ashamed to say I may have used once in a while; when I wore a younger mans clothes. “An intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with fools.” I lived in the Latin Quarter in Paris and was a bit of an Ernest Hemingway fan. Ernest was fond of wine and of writing. He famously led the American troops into Paris when they liberated the city in World War 2. His point of liberation had an exact address and he went straight for the cellars of the Ritz, which he personally liberated. They forgave him though, and named a bar after him. Our little 1 bedroom apartment in Paris was nowhere near the Ritz but it was a few steps away from Mr. Hemingway’s old apartment in the wonderful Mouffetard area of the city. Back then, I quite fancied myself the writer – the Irish exile, penning a seminal work that would never be understood in his lifetime – the usual story. However, the dreams of youth are so often quenched by the responsibility of being an adult. During this apprenticeship in wine, I came across and sadly repeated that quote on many training sessions. We all need an excuse of some sort. Looking back, I often wonder, if I was so intelligent, why did I leave? The fools are still in Paris and my feet are cold in a warehouse in Ireland. But good news will lift my spirits and yours as well I hope. The weather is very nice in New Zealand at the moment and we are having Joyce Austin (fresh off of the plane) back for a great tasting of New Zealand wines.

We had her over in June and it was a great success. As an added treat, we are going to going to have the tasting in Nuala’s café in Hickeys Bakery at the Westgate. The café has a lovely ambience and Nuala has promised some nice nibbles to accompany the wines. Tickets are only €10 ( this event is €20 in Dublin ) and as I write this, half the tickets are gone, and I haven’t advertised outside of the website yet. In preparation for this night, I will try to explain a little bit about what happens at these tastings. I know that sometimes people can feel a little intimidated. This is a shame as most tastings assume you know nothing, and a good presenter like Joyce will explain a little bit more after every wine and build up the knowledge and confidence slowly. In some tastings, you will be shown how to physically taste – i.e. all the swirling about and sucking air in as you taste. There is a good reason for all of this I assure you and nobody is expected not to spill a bit. No white clothes while tasting is always a good idea, and a special thanks to the gentleman who called in with the tip about removing the red wine stains. I hope he enjoyed the free bottle of wine. Back to the tasting and there will always be spittoons available for those who like to spit and I am confident that some day they will be used. A good tasting should always challenge the people who have some experience and there is always a chance to show off. The difference between dry and sweet or why certain wines have higher alcohol levels than others – put your hand up if you know. These questions and so many more can be answered if you are interested. If you are not then it is a chance to drink some very good wines for very little money and meet some truly fascinating people who love what they do in life.

For anyone who would like more information and can’t make it into the shop, please feel free to contact me at

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”