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Archive for February, 2010

Liberty Wine Tasting Feb2010

February 25th, 2010

I am back behind the desk after a very tiring jaunt to Dublin. I decided to kill two birds with one stone and stay overnight. Tuesday night saw a bit of smoozing among my MBA fraternity colleagues as we listened to Robbie Kelliher of Davys Stockbrokers wax lyrical about all things equity. Fascinating stuff, lots of value out there with anyone who has a few pounds – although fine wine is a far better investment. Little too many ‘what ifs’ for my liking in his speech. God help us all if interest rates rise before we are ready, and some economists argue that they have to. Robbie didn’t think so. I hope he is right. Before and after that, I did a tour of wine bars and restaurants to see how the big smoke enjoys a wonderful array of choice when it comes to their wine night out. Ely was great and so was Olesya’s Wine Bar on Exchequer Street. I was with my brother and the night wore on a bit, so after all the wine and the prospect of more the next day, I decided i needed to detox. So I had a lovely pint of Guinness.

pint of Guinness

On to the reason for the post – The Liberty Wines Portfolio Tasting. While i import a lot of my wines myself, and have to say much prefer this route, the reality is that you can’t be all things to all people, and I rely on other experts to prop up the list. Liberty are definelty one of the better ones out there, and they have a huge selection, and I think that we benefit greatly from the fact that they are UK based, as it offers us a choice we might not see otherwise. We had an Italian Tasting with them in December and it was a huge success.

It was great to meet Lar Veale of and The Sunday Tribune and Kevin Crowley of Fenns Quay Restaurant in Cork city. We have been tweeting for a while now. Lar kindly asked me for an interview and i made it onto his blog post. Kevin was also interviewed, but there were creative differences about the script, judging on the photo.

Lar and Kevin in debate over content of interview

I also got to meet some of the people behind some of our most popular wines.
The utterly charming Victoria Curatolo of Villa Tonino in Sicily.
Victoria Curatolo of Villa Tonino

I only started stocking Allegrini before Christmas but even at the higher price point, they are very popular. The La Grola and the Palazzo della Torre are great wines, but I finally got to taste the Amarone yesterday and it was really special. They also had the Corte Giara range which were really interesting as well, and at a better price point.

Silvia Allegrini shows off her Amarone

Silvia Allegrini

We sell a lot of Chianti and Sangiovese in general. It was great to chat to Giacomo Alari who is behind wines such as the great value Cantina De Montalcino Sangiovese di Toscana, Da Vinci Chianti,Chianti Classico and both the Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino.

Giacomo Alari

The other stand out wines for me were Domaine Nicolas Girard Sancerre – very different with all of the grassy notes you would expect from a Sancerre, but still a little bit of a change from the norm. Domaine Pfister’s Riesling was long, dry and delicious. There was a Cotes du Rhone called Domaine Richaud that was mind blowing, but at an RRP of €21.99, too expensive to sell. There was a Primitivo di Puglia that was really interesting at the price. The Costa della Sesia and Lessona from Sperino were great examples of both blended and pure Nebbiolo. The Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir really surprised me and offers good value. The Capezzana Olive Oil really finished off a wonderful days tasting.

A little video tour of proceedings …

As well as Lar, I also managed to bump into some other members of the Irish Wine press and it was great to talk with the men behind the words. Tomás Clancy of the Sunday Business Post told me a great story about his meeting with Robert Parker, whom I studied inside and out for my thesis. Unlike Tomás, I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting the man. It was also great to meet Kevin Ecock of the Free Running blog who gave me some good advice about the workings of the Irish Wine World.

Huge thanks to Gerry, Ben, David and the rest of the Liberty team who put on a great show. The lunch was delicious and the red wine Capezzana Barco Real, was one i stock as well, so great to see.

French Embassy Dublin Tasting Feb2010

February 25th, 2010

The wonderful Ely CHQ for French Embassy Tasting

On Thursday February 18th 2010, Ely CHQ in Dublin hosted the French Embassy wine tasting where a number of French winemakers presented their wares to the trade, in the hope of securing a little business. The very atmospheric caverns in the basement of Ely CHQ held court and the confiscated pirate loot of years gone by was nowhere to be seen. I was delighted to see a number of the wines that I sell on the shelves of the very wine orientated restaurant on show. But I was here to look for wines that were not yet on show in the Emerald Isle.

The place was not as crowded as one might expect but that made for a very comfortable tasting environment. You could have a good conversation with the winemakers. Some vineyards sent reps but the most interesting tables had as you would imagine, the people who get their hands dirty in among the vines.
There was one particualr table where I had the most wonderful conversation with a winemaker who’s family have had the estate for centuries. As is the traditional custom, the winemaker tastes everything with you, but I got to this man a little late in the day, and he had been tasting all day. We had a great conversation in French ( he has no English ), about all manner of things French. Some of his wine were probably the star of the show for me as well. Passion and wine are great bedfellows.

A punter enjoying the wines on show

There were some fantastic old Burgundies on show from Chateau de Villars Fontaine, with 1993, 1996 and 2001 Pinot Noir and some very fresh 1997 and 2003 Chardonnay. There was some cracking Rhone Valley wines including a wonderful ( but expensive ) Condrieu. The VDP Viognier from the same estate offered better value and a really interesting nose.

Beaujolais was on show and in great order as were the sparklers from the Loire Valley – elegance at a great price. A couple of photos and a shaky video from the day.

Article – Old Age and Dodgy Corks

February 22nd, 2010

The anticipation when opening a very special bottle of wine is much like the anticipation with anything you are looking forward to. The only difference in the case of a bottle that you have been saving is the time involved can vary from months to years. Seeing as it was Valentine’s Day this weekend, I opened a bottle I had bought a number of years ago in France. It is from a tiny little appellation in the south of France and is quite different to much of what is on the market. I don’t sell it, so of course its name is not important, but suffice to say, I was looking forward to getting the cork out. The dinner was on, and I opened the wine to give it the time it needs to loosen up the tight fruit. I had a little taste, as I find it hard to resist, but it didn’t taste great. I thought maybe it was tight, so I gave it more time, but after an hour, it still was a little off. To be honest, I may not have noticed this a few years back, but the wine was slightly corked. The fruit, which is what makes this particular wine famous, was faded and while the wine was drinkable, it was not enjoyable. I had opened another bottle of the same wine about a year ago, and it sung like a great wine should. I had kept this wine under perfect conditions, but it just goes to show you can never be certain. It must be cruel for an unknown winemaker to go through the process of getting their wines in front of critics only for their wine to be listed in the “corked” section of the review.

So what should a corked wine taste or smell like? Think of cleaning out your garage and you find a bunch of old newspapers that you used to mop up some liquid spill at some stage in the past. That wet, damp smell is the closest you will get to a corked wine smell. The natural aromas of the wine (all of those wonderful descriptions that you read in the tasting notes – meadows of wild strawberries, hints of meandering black forest fruits) are dramatically reduced and in some cases, decimated. You can technically drink tainted wine, but it won’t taste great and in many cases is just undrinkable. However, a large majority of wines that are corked (albeit slightly) go undetected by the average consumer. It takes a bit of practise to judge a slightly corked bottle. The flip side of this is that there are other wines that are old and their flavours change over time towards a more raison like experience, and sometimes people mistake this for the wine being “a little off”. This is not true, as mature wine is supposed the change and people have returned fantastic old Bordeaux wines that are perfect. To be fair, the market is driven by wines that are not yet mature and very few merchants can afford to hold young wines that need time before selling. The big tight wines that are so often sold too young are slowly becoming the norm and it is a shame as wine with age really does offer something very different. Of course, young Chilean Merlot is intended to be drunk while young. Ageing will not improve this wine.

I sell a 1995 version of our award winning 5 star Chateauneuf du Pape producer, Nicolas Boiron’s wine and to compare it against the 2005 is really interesting. The same vines and the same grapes produce the same wines in two great vintages and they taste completely different. Which is nicer or better you may ask, and of course there is only one answer – Whichever one you prefer. That’s both my Enda Kenny answer and my George Lee answer. If I am to be honest, it took me a while to ‘get’ older wines and the added dimension that a good one can offer. I have seen the look of friend’s faces when I opened an old bottle at dinner and they were forcing out the compliments. The alcohol integrates into the fruit, so you often don’t get that big kick often associated with modern wines. Some people do get it immediately as there is a lot happening there, but if I can offer any small bit of advice, it is to slowly start collecting a bottle a week or a month that is for “laying down”. Life moves pretty fast the older you get, and in no time, the relatively cheap 2007 Chateauneuf du Papes will be 10 years old and coming into their own. I have wines ready to drink with age, but you will pay for them. Wines that might have cost 10 or 15 Euros ten years ago are now trading for 40 or 70 Euros. The secret is to buy from a good vintage. I can always help you with that.

Another misconception that is out there is this. If you break the cork on opening the bottle, do not panic. This just means you made a mess of opening the bottles or probably used one of those terrible winged openers. The wine should still be perfect, and just pick out the bits of cork and enjoy. Going forward, I would suggest that you get yourself a proper double hinged “waiter” style cork and your troubles “should” be over. I sell top quality ones for 5.50 and I’ll even show you how to use it. Inserting the corkscrew at an angle is key. If you buy a nice case of wine, I might even throw in the corkscrew and the lesson for free.

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”

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist Feb 18 2010

Red Nose Song – Dean Martin

February 21st, 2010

I know the obvious one is “Litttle Old wine drinker me”, and that may yet appear in the future, but I like this one for its hint of desperation …. we’re all a little desperate sometimes.

I think Dino is in need of something smooth and easy to drink and i think Gassac’s Albaran is the perfect pair. Don’t hang around, just pour it brother.

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.

Article – The Supermodel and the Parisian Toilet

February 12th, 2010

Last week the story left off after a very successful trip to the Milliseme Bio organic wine show in Montpellier. Good contacts were made and as I write there are samples ferrying their way across France for re-tasting. The trick is to leave them settle for a week or so after their journey. Wines don’t like to move and when they do, it is best to give them a little rest after the trip. If you ever open up a bottle of wine straight from the holiday suitcase, and it tasted a little tight, it will probably be the fault of the journey. I usually let any regulars who are in shop when I am tasting the wines take them away afterwards. My generosity knows no bounds. Giving away free samples after I have opened and tasted them. How will the multinationals compete? They are running for cover as they read this and the imaginary queues are leaving the supermarkets and forming at Red Nose Wine. I want to tell you two little stories this week, one which is wine related and the other is about this celebrity culture that we cannot escape. It is not about a Chelsea footballer.

After the show in Montpellier I was very hungry and I dined at Les Bains de Montpellier, a fantastic restaurant that is situated behind the opera in the famous Place de la Comedie. It was recommended by a number of wine makers, so I knew that the wine list would be good at the very least. It was, and when you have a list that is based around the food, you know you are in for a treat. I had fish the night before and was craving a steak, medium rare with a rich local wine to wash it down with. The matching of food and wine is often overplayed, and a good rule is to keep it simple. I had the sauce on the side, and let the wine flavour the meat, and vice versa. The wine was a top notch Cotes de Roussillon wine that cost €25 and was sublime. The proteins in the steak complimented the wine and I only went near the delicious sauce with the bread after the steak was demolished. I won’t go on about the value, even in the upmarket restaurants, that exists in France and the continent in general. As so many Irish restaurants are struggling at the moment, I don’t think it is fair to comment on the prices they are often forced to charge. But what I do lament is this constant instance to bring in inappropriate wines for the foods that they serve. They choose based on price and quality rarely comes into it. Even the expensive wines that they have don’t suit the menus. There are of course exceptions to this rule all over the country but what is the point in having a big strong Amarone in a fish restaurant? Why don’t more Oriental restaurants offer white wines like Riesling, where the sugar cools down and integrates with the spices? Why don’t we see more affordable Pinot Noir’s on the menus, as they go great with Chicken, which seems to have replaced potatoes as the staple of choice for the Irish people. I understand why people like Chilean Merlot and Italian Pinot Grigio, and I sell lots of them, but sit down with your wine supplier and by all means buy on price, but think of your customers and your food when making the choices. All that will happen is that the market will dictate a very narrow view on which wines are imported and we will go back to the old days. There are a few independent wine importers like myself who are bringing in something different. While the public are definitely open to the choice, the hotels and restaurants are proving harder to infiltrate. We need the public to demand something more from them, but they need to support them by eating out as well. Staying in is the new going out but we all need to get out of the house. The bad weather over the Christmas resulted in a lot of cabin fever in my house anyway.

After this great meal in Montpellier I managed to eat a very dodgy sandwich on the TGV the next day. If you add to this, that the seat was facing the wrong way for the 3 ½ hour journey to Paris, I was very queasy by the time we rolled into Gare de Lyon in central Paris. After checking into the hotel I went for a short stroll around my old haunting ground of the 5th and 6th arrondissements. I was passing Odeon and fell into a crowded entrance where there were loads of paparazzi and a string of limos and fancy taxis pulling up. I stopped to look and it turns out if was Paris Fashion week and there was a party on here for Jean Paul Gautier. It was funny to watch the people who stepped out of the cars looking for the paparazzi and the quick look and even quicker rejection by the paps, when they realised the mutton dressed up as lamb was not worth a photo. I was about to leave when the paps suddenly went bananas and attacked a car where a 7ft skinny blonde model appeared. I recognised her, but could not be sure who she is exactly. Its a few years since I followed the fashion model scene. I did manage to capture the Odeon fashion scene on video ( I have a small camera for the live blogs from the shows ). If you want to have a look and see if you can identify the model, log on to and hazard a guess. I just missed Dita Von Teese and Kate Moss but my sandwich was starting to do its work, and I had to rush back to the smallest hotel room in Paris. I was due to eat in an old haunt and meet up with some people to watch the Manchester United match. My stomach informed that all bets were off and without going into too much of the graphic detail; I spent the next 12 hours going from the bed to the bathroom. I crawled out of bed in the morning and took a taxi to the airport and finally came back to Cork, and on to Clonmel.

Don’t forget St. Valentine’s Day next Sunday. You can surprise your loved one with a €12 bottle of Chateau Valentine ( a lovely Bordeaux Red from the great 2005 vintage ) which we will be promoting and tasting this week. We also have some lovely gift packs which hold a bottle of bubbly and 2 champagne flutes. What could be more romantic? Congratulations to the owners of the local horse that won at 18-1 in Leopardstown last weekend. For once, I did get the tip and had money on. There was also some great news for one of my favourite producers this week as Nicolas Boiron of Bosquet des Papes in Chateauneuf du Papes won the 5 star Decanter awards for the 2007 vintage with his very special cuvee Chante Le Merle. A lot of my regulars know his wines as the Cotes du Rhone and his traditional Chateauneuf are very popular. I often get people into the shop who love to tell me about the amazing price they paid for a Chateauneuf that they bought somewhere else. Considering the time and oak involved in making a traditional one, I always suggest that they taste the difference. There is just no comparison of flavour, length and power. Now, some people don’t like a wine so complicated, so the light weight Chateauneuf might suit their palate more. That’s fine and a matter of taste, but if that is the case, then they should try a Cotes du Rhone, or something made for their style. One thing that should always be the case for a wine be it an €8.50 Pinot Grigio or a €24 Chateauneuf is that the fruit, alcohol and acidity must be in balance. That is very often the problem with large scale commodity wines and why the cheaper wines from the serious winemakers ( like Nicolas ) are often the very best value.

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”

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist Feb 11 2010

Valentine Offer

February 9th, 2010

Hello Wine Lovers,

If you are looking for something different for Valentines, Red Nose Wine is having an offer on Champagne,
Prosecco, Cava and Sparkling Wine with 2 champagne flutes in a gift pack. Delivering all over Ireland
for order before Thursday.

Also, we have a really good value Red called Chateau Valentine which is a 2005 Bordeaux for €12

Whatever you do, enjoy the weekend !!!

Happy Lovin’

5 Star Decanter Award – Bosquet des Papes

February 6th, 2010

The wonderful Bosquet des Papes in Chateauneuf du Papes were just awarded the 5 star award from the very influential Decanter wine magazine. It was for their 2007 Chante Le Merle.

Decanter Award Bosquet Chante 2007

This was a vintage that has been hailed since it was harvested, but Decanter’s group of experts including Margaret Rand and Steven Spurrier, were not overly impressed and felt only a few stars really shone, relative to what was expected. Among them was Bosquet des Papes. Customers have been enjoying the 2000 and the 2005 Chante Le Merle for a while now. I still have the 2007 in bond, and haven’t even had it in the shop as I think it is too soon to drink it. Since the award this week, I have already had an order for case from a customer, so my advice to all its fans, get it when it is going – i don’t have huge stocks. My daughter was born on 2007, and her name is on one of the cases in bond.

I am delighted for Nicolas Boiron as he is a gentleman and i first met him and his wines about 8 years ago when i lived in Paris. I was introduced to him by a Danish friend that I played on the same football team with. The multicultural Paris Gaels. We were just knocked out of the French Cup ( very preliminary stages ), and we went to the big wine fair in Porte de Versailles to drown our sorrows. I ended up buying about 6 cases of different vintages ( as well as countless other Burgundy’s and Bordeaux wines ). A very expensive match. Anyway, I had a great day last summer with Nicholas in his domaine and his cellar has wines going back through the many generations that his family has owned the land.

Bosquet des Papes Tasting selection

Gary Gubbins and Nicolas Boiron at Bosquet des Papes

His other wines, including the very affordable Tradition blends and the magical La Folie also fared very well with 3 stars. One of my best selling wines is his 2007 Cotes du Rhone which leans much more towards a CDP than a CDR. I now need to get more of these wines back in before he sells out. To the batphone !!!!

Red Nose News

February 5th, 2010

Hello Wine Lovers

A bright start to the day so lets hope it carries through to the weekend and holds for the rugby.
A really different wine is new to the shop – I only got a couple of cases, but so far the wine is proving popular. For does of you who like Barolo or Barbera d’Alba but don’t want to wait for it to mature ( or pay the prices ), may I suggest Dolcetto d’Alba. It literally means “the little sweet one” and has black cherry and licorice undertones as a general rule. We have a biodynamic version called Le Ghiaie and we are selling it for €19.50, which is great value when compared to the Nebbiolo varieties.

The German Pinot Gris is also back in the shop after a little break. I know a lot of you were looking for it.

For a limited time only, we are giving away a choice of the following when you spend €75 or more in the shop ( or online ).

- A pack of handcrafted coffee from Ponaire Coffee – artisan coffee and part of the Tipperary Food Producers Network

- Handmade chocolate truffles from the wonderful Lorge Chocolatier ( a French cooking genius who lives in Kerry )

- Handmade chocolate bars from the wonderful Lorge Chocolatier ( a French cooking genius who lives in Kerry )

A very talented artist ( Barry Keegan ) put together a profile picture for the twitter,facebook, website profile. It can be seen here
It is a very typical scene on my trips … if only !!!!

We are opening up wines again as the weather is a little better, so please call in for a taste.

Lots of wines on offer still.



The new Profile Picture

February 4th, 2010

The new profile picture ( created by Barry Keegan @ Bakword ) – typical wine trip scenario really

A Typical days tasting

A Typical days tasting