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Article – Cheap or Expensive Wine – what do you really prefer

August 31st, 2010

Maradona and the fan letter

Where to now on our rocky road through the technical aspects of tasting wine? Do we have to endure more statistical nonsense about sweetness and acidity? All we really want to know is if the wine tastes good. And so shout the gallery from the rooftops of my imaginary fanbase. Is anybody reading? Does anybody care? Well I can tell you that someone is reading because I got a fan letter. I am not sure they were supportive of the articles or not as it was a bit of a rant, but I am framing it and putting it on the toilet wall with my signed Maradona shirt. To answer the earlier question, yes we do have to endure more wine talk. It is a wine column after all.

Margaux or Pinot Grigio?

And so on to all things grapey, if such a word exists. I appreciate the recent articles may be a little heavy in terms of the technicalities behind wine tasting, so I think I will talk about something a little less taxing. To be honest, it is exhausting writing in that detail, so we’ll all take a week off. The break will do us good and we’ll be ready to talk about something magical or mystical next week. So what to fill the pages of the paper with in its place? I’m banned from talking about France for a while yet, and I have a few things on Italy planned soon. I think use the information we have been amassing these last few weeks should be used, so I will approach a sensitive subject on wine. Do people pretend to like complex and expensive wines because they think they should, when really they would prefer the cheap €10 euro bottle instead? When I attend family gatherings there is often a silent assumption that I will bring something nice to the table. I personally prefer to use up their current stock of Red Nose Wine so they will be forced to buy some more. In any case, I have often arrived with what would be referred to as a serious wine, with layers of complexity. It takes every amount of self control not to recite poetry on the spot; such is the inspiration within this liquid gold. It usually goes in two directions. One person claims to see the light and bows down in adulation before the alter of this most wondrous creation. The other finds it too tough and sneaks away to return with a nice and easy Pinot Grigio. The question is – who is right and who is wrong and is it fair to strip it down like this.

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine at Chateau Margaux

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine at Chateau Margaux

Days of Wine & Roses

I am not talking about the times when you are tired and want an “easy” wine by choice. I am talking about the wine when someone else is buying and money is not a major option. We can all close our eyes and remember the days of wine and roses. As the old song goes, “The days of wine and roses laugh and run away like a child at play. Through a meadow land toward a closing door. A door marked “nevermore” that wasn’t there before”. I think that’s a good summation of the Celtic Tiger actually. Sometimes bitterness can add to the wine, but we’ll get back to the subject at hand.

For all the people who buy cheap new world wine. Are they wrong to like it? Should they aspire to something more. For me, and this is only my opinion, they are right and wrong at the same time. If they like it how can they be wrong, so in this regard they are right. However, as human beings we all should aspire to something better, and the Celtic Tiger proved where this can lead. With regard to wine this doesn’t have to more expensive, and negative equity probably won’t kick in between the purchase and consumption of the bottle. In fact, the ‘better’ wine can often be cheaper. If you recall the sugar article, the added sugar in a lot of the cheaper wines masks the true integrity of the wines, so a bad wine can be very drinkable. We all like a bit of sugar, and the global popularity of Coca Cola and chocolate can attest to this. I know I used to have a problem with Coca Cola ( I don’t want to use the abbreviated version in case there is a whole other misunderstanding ). I would drink a bottle of it without thinking and absorb the sugar at speed. I now only rarely have it, unless I am on holidays in the country I am not allowed to speak of. They still serve it in the tall glass bottle with ice and lemon. I can almost taste it. Maybe I still have a bit of a problem.

Coca Cola

Coca Cola


Taste the Difference

The true essence of a wine is when it reflects the people who make it and the land where it comes from. If that is a wine style you don’t like, then that is fine. However, I do think we should all be drinking a wine in its purest form, and that doesn’t ecessarily mean organic. It means there is nothing added or taken away from the essence of the fruit, be it a very cheap wine or a hugely complex monster. There is always a temptation to say wonderful things about complex expensive wines as many people feel they should. I love it when people come into the shop and tell me they know nothing about wine and want me to recommend a wine. I try to determine if it’s for food or if they like it sweet or dry, and the vast majority of the time I will give them a cheap, cheerful but authentic wine. It is usually a cheaper wine because if they are not used to drinking it, the expensive one will be wasted. I love it even more when regular wine drinkers around the 9-11 euro mark ask me for something special. When you go above 12 euros towards the 15 euro mark you should be getting wines that really make you stop and think. No amount of added sugar can replicate this experience and I never tire of people coming back and telling me about tasting the difference. It took me a long time to appreciate the really complex wines and I am still learning and that is a really great part of the job. Ultimately you must enjoy the wine. It should not be hard work so I understand why my Pinot Grigio loving relation likes it so much. However, the same person will not be found hiding when a good bottle of Red comes around. I think it is much easier for the amateur wine taster to appreciate a fine red, compared to a fine white, but it could be argued that some of the world’s most interesting fine wines are white.

Kilkenny team sponsor a case of Wine

By the time you (hopefully) read this, the hugely popular Tipperary Food Producers Long Table dinner will have happened. I am supplying the Kilkenny owned Domaine des Anges for the dinner in The Old Convent. I asked the owner, Gay McGuiness to sponsor a case for the night, and he kindly agreed, but on condition. If Kilkenny win the All Ireland, I pay for the sponsored wine, and if Tipperary wins, he does. So, for all of you, who enjoyed this wonderful organic wine from Provence, be sure to shout for Tipperary on September 5th, or I will be broke. Please visit the website to see highlights from the night.

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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 Aug 25 2010

Paul ( writes:

I don’t know why the average consumer thinks it’s so outrageous that a bottle of wine might cost (e.g.) €20. For that kind of money it should be a pretty damn good wine and there are 4-6 drinks in it. Five pints of Carlsberg would cost the same and nobody would bat an eyelid over that. What about a taxi into and out of town? There’s twenty quid you’ll never see again, and you got nothing for it!

Even expensive wine is (often) very good value for what it gives.

Red Nose Wine ( writes:

I agree with you Paul
I have tasted many an €8 bottle of wine that was over priced and many a €25 bottle that was great value. We are in different times though and there is a race to the bottom. The hard part is to maintain the integrity and the bottom line….
PS – how was your 1er Cru Beaune?

Paul ( writes:

Outstanding. Will have post up tomorrow. Wish I could be drinking €40 Burgundy all the time. Maybe I need to get a second job, selling counterfeit cigarettes or something.

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