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Archive for June, 2010

How tough is wine?

June 30th, 2010

The Tough Kid at School

We all knew the tough kids in school. If you were lucky enough to sit beside them in maths class you might have built up a rapport with them and by virtue of you doing their homework for them, you escaped the beatings, and they may have even given you unofficial protection as you wandered through the horrible world of adolescence. A recent incident involving a bottle of wine brought me to ask the following question – are some wines tougher than others?

Bouncy Bouncy

I had a bottle of wine in the sleeve of my laptop bag yesterday and as I arrived home to welcoming and jumping children, the bag slipped and the bottle slid from the pocket and fell to the cement ground. I waited for the smash, but the bottle bounced. I checked and double checked and all was well. Joy to the world. Considering the bottle was an expensive one - I was treating myself to after a bad week, I was most pleased, and relieved. In fact, to celebrate the survival of the bottle, I did the only decent thing that I could, I opened it. When I compared this bottle to the case of cheap Pinot Grigio that I dropped on the way to a restaurant, it is truly remarkable. The protective case was well made cardboard, but the bottles were thin and the minute it fell about six inches from the trolley, I could hear the smash. Three bottles met their maker, and as the apple and pear flavoured liquid drained down the nearby road, I knew they would cheer no more.

So, as many of us have dropped many wines I am sure, how many have you saved, and are some wines tougher than others? Are they supposed to survive and fulfill their noble destiny, i.e. be drank?

To be a little bit topical, one could compare the Tipperary South TD Mattie McGrath’sstand against the government as a bouncing of the bottle. Will it smash, or will he fulfill his destiny. As disenchanted as I am with the whole political scene, the ONLY sitting or wannabe TD that knocked on my door ( and I live fairly central ), was Mattie. He had a magic bus that swept in and out of South Tipperary and attacked the masses. They were like friendly dementors.

We’ll see how Mattie’s methaphorical bottle of wine surives. My feeling is he will have the last laugh at the next election.
Like I said, at least he called to the door and took my abuse. Back in 2007, at the tail end of an MBA and full of knowledge about the upcoming crash ( academia saw it a mile off ), I had a LOT to say.

Article – The Hills are alive, with Austrian Wine

June 26th, 2010

Bye Bye Badman… Bye Bye

There is no getting away from it; it’s a poor World Cup. The only consolidation is that France are in turmoil and on the way home. I am still not over Thierry Henry and his magic hand. He is of course the reason why I am not bringing in a range of wines from South Africa. Could there be a better time to convince the South African Wine board that you want to make their wines number 1 in Ireland but need to do some serious reconnaissance. A quick look at my calendar and it seems that the months of June and July 2010 are free Mr. Trade Ambassador. The plan was foolproof, until Thierry did his worst. So, since Ireland is not there, I will snub all other wine producing countries that are there. France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Australia and all the rest – I reject your wines, for at least one article.


Brothers in Arms – Grüner Veltliner

Where shall I aim my trusty pen, or even laptop I hear you ask? As coincidence ( or strategic cunning ) would have it, I am listening to the sound of music, yodelling from the mountain tops and crashing at high speed on ill fitting skis ( in my mind ). Yes, I am in Austria, for they also did not make it to the World Cup. The cunning part is that I have been working on a deal with another importer to get some of Austria’s finest wine, at an affordable price. A couple of weeks ago the deal was done and these last few days saw the introduction of a very price conscious Grüner Veltliner into Red Nose Wine on a special deal. It normally prices at about the 17 euro mark but by buying a decent amount of it, we got a deal and now have it on the shelf for 13.50 euros. I think that the wine drinking public of Tipperary agree, because everyone who tasted it bought it.

So, Thierry, from the Hills of Austria, this is for you …

This anti World Cup gesture is our silent protest against Mr. Henry and the corridors of power in UEFA and FIFA. At this stage I think I may be obsessing a little bit, but I really had the whole trip planned out. There are a bunch of winemakers expecting me this week in South Africa, and all they will get are a bunch of Frenchmen who would dismiss their wines out of hand. I used to love going to public wine tastings in Paris. Everyone is an expert and the local barber, postman or electrician would analyse some poor winemaker’s wine to an inch of its life. They would make recommendations from everything to the length of time in oak, cork taint to the exact picking dates. The same wine could easily get five completely different opinions. Good luck with that Mr. South African winemaker.

Anyway, I do believe I was supposed to be talking about anything but France or their wine. So, what is Grüner Veltliner? It is a grape variety that finds its home in Austria. I have heard it described as a wine that has the nose of Riesling, the refreshing taste of Sauvignon Blanc and the fruits (apples and peach) and lusciousness of a Pinot Grigio. That’s not far away for the wine we have on offer, but I have tasted other versions that I couldn’t agree with that as a description. It really can go from a refreshing style wine to a full bodied age worthy wine. Austrian wine accounts for 1% of the world’s production and has 120,000 acres, which is comparable to half of Bordeaux or double New Zealand. The family who make the Laurenz V wine (the one I brought into the shop recently) have been in the wine business since 1124, so this is what you might call “Old School”. It lies on the same latitude as Burgundy, and that is no small calling card. Why isn’t Austrian wine more popular? There was a delicate incident, and I am being very generous with that description, a number of years back. Without getting into the full details, the words Austrian wine and antifreeze were synonymise. They still struggle with the stigma, but the strict quality control regulations put in place after the scandal makes them arguably the cleanest wines in the world now. I was truly shocked at the popularity of the wine in its first two days, so I am glad to find I am not alone in my admiration for this most underrated country and grape variety.

TWEBT – A Twitter thing

A very interesting event is happening next Sunday, July 4th. It is a Twitter Blind Wine Tasting. Basically a mystery bottle is wrapped and made available for purchase. Red Nose Wine have the honour of being the supplier for the 5th national tasting. At 9pm on July 4th, everyone (from all over Ireland) will simultaneously open their bottle and post their comments on Twitter to be seen and shared with all other people participating in the blind tasting. 5 questions are asked by the organiser and after random guesses; they are answered by the supplier. Who will come out on top? Tune into Twitter and follow #TWEBT to find out.

Red Nose Wine are making room for the news wines we have found, and are having a massive sale starting this week. There will be very serious wines and not so serious wines to be had, at clearance prices.

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 June 24 2010


June 25th, 2010


We are clearing out stock to make room for the new wines we have been sourcing.

There is 20% off many wines, 15% off more !!!!

That includes the new wines that just arrived. Serious wines on Sale !!!!!

Call in quick before the best wines are gone. It will be going online at the end of the weekend, so mailing list members have the first choice …. While stocks last

Wine Photos 070

There are some real gems in the heavily discounted section… call back over the weekend to see the online offers as they go LIVE !!!

TWEBT – A Twitter Blind Tasting

June 16th, 2010

TWEBT will now happen on Sunday JULY 4th – blame the World Cup for suddenly getting interesting

A while back, I wrote an article / blog in real-time ( I was the Kiefer Sutherland of the wine world for about 90 minutes ) during a blind tasting of a wine. What made this blind tasting different was that while I was alone at my kitchen table tasting the wine, in a virtual capacity, there were many more people co-tasting with me. Through the medium of Twitter we all tasted the mystery wine and made our guesses about it being new world or old world, vintage, grape variety, country and region. All the while the supplier of the wine laughed at our guesses from the comfort of their full view of the label.

#TWEBT - Twitter Blind Tasting Bottle

#TWEBT - Twitter Blind Tasting Bottle

The tables are turned for now I am the supplier and I know the wine. Is it Red, White, Rose or Bubbly?
I can’t tell you as the inventors of the TWEBT, Mr. Brian Clayton and Mr. Kevin Crowley would be most upset. It’s all happening on Sunday July 4th, so you can call into Red Nose Wine in Clonmel to collect your bottle or order online here. For full OFFICIAL rules please got to Brian’s blog.

Let the guessing commence.

Article – Old Vines in the Barossa

June 13th, 2010

Free Rosé @ Red Nose

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

Australian Wine in Croker

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

The crowd at Croke Park

The crowd at Croke Park

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

Alternative varietals with Chester Osborn

Alternative varietals with Chester Osborn

Very Old Vines indeed

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

Sam Holmes, CEO of the Barossa Grape & Wine Association

Sam Holmes, CEO of the Barossa Grape & Wine Association

How Old is Old?

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

The Barossa

The Barossa

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

Don’t forget to log onto the blog at 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 June 10 2010

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist June 10 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 (

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 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”

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine with Tim Atkin MW

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine with Tim Atkin MW