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The Big Spring Pick A Dot SALE

February 7th, 2013

You’ve got to pick a Dot or Two

You’ve got to pick a dot or two. Fagin would be in for the new Sale that we have just launched in Red Nose Wine. The theory is simple and I shall now attempt to keep it simple in my elaboration of the said same theory.


We are making room for lots of new wines we are currently sourcing and are having a bit of a cull. We have 3 levels of the SALE and these are represented by 3 different dots – Red, Blue & Green. In a nutshell, if you’re bottle has a Red dot, then its 50% off – if it has a Blue dot, then its 30% off and if it has a green dot, its 20% off.

WIne Sale

Old Bordeaux – New New Zealand

Some of the wines included are 2000 Bordeaux Medoc, New Zealand Pinot Noir, Sauvignon, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. There are some SUPER Loire Valley wines including biodynamic Bourguiel and Sancerre. We have Australian Shiraz, Riesling and Chardonnay as well some great Spanish reds and whites. There is some serious Italian Pinot Grigio on offer as well.

This is just a sprinkling of what’s in the sale and it is while stocks last. Call in and see the whole selection. Many of them are open to taste. We are not putting them online because there really is only small amounts of the wines, but if anyone wants a list to put a mix together, we can send it to them via email and if they’re lucky their favourite wines will still be there.

Get them when they’re cheap !!!

A Guest Blogger – Forever Young

April 12th, 2012

I grew up in Cherrymount on the outskirts of Clonmel and have great memories of playing football on the old tennis court and buying sweets on a Saturday morning in Deccies shop with my 50p pocket money. I lived up the back of the estate and my cousin Alan lived in the front. Conor O Mahony made up the trio of Cherrymount Musketeers.

Bob Dylan & The Nationalist

As we grew older we went in different directions and lost touch as childhood friends often do. Conor is sadly no longer with us as he died unexpectedly of Sudden Cardiac Death following a football match in Dublin in 2006. However it turns out for as much as we had in common as kids, we had a lot in common as adults. We both play guitar, love Bob Dylan’s music, travelling and we both have been known to write our thoughts on paper and The Nationalist have been kind enough to publish them.

Forever Young

I was living in Paris when Conor’s travel journey was published in the Nationalist so it was not until I read the book that has recently been published that I knew about his articles. His father Brendan (of Clonmel Travel fame) walked a part of the Camino to Santiago de Compostela in Spain to raise funds for CRY, a charity that raises awareness, offers support for families and also offers access to Cardiac screening for anyone who might feel they are at risk.

Brendan gathered all of Conor’s travel diary entries and added his own section on the Camino and a book that celebrates Conor’s life and raises money for a great cause was born. The book is called Forever Young, after one of Bob Dylan’s songs. It is one of Conor’s ( and coincidently one of my ) favorite songs. I have played and sang this song to my kids when they were small babies. I also made a promise in 2004 to walk the Camino someday, but that’s a story for another day, and involves high heels.

With kind permission from Brendan and Margaret, Conor’s parents, I am going to share one of his articles with you, where he visits a well known winery in Australia. To set the scene, he is backpacking his way up through the Hunter Valley with a bunch of people of a certain age who are enjoying life. Conor’s piece starts here.

Conor’s Wine Trip

“I’m on the OZ Experience bus, which will take me up the east coast, but inland, rather than on the coast, if you get my drift. But first we are heading towards a spot, more a region actually, a place that is famous for its wine – Hunter Valley. I have run out of superlatives for the scenery

The Hunter Valley could be described thus! Grapevines rolling over verdant hills, like well-drilled infantry and all in the cause of wine. I never thought I’d see where, for example, Rosemount wines were made. It has the familiar logo on the gate and on the way in we pass Lindemans and Coopers as well. As it happens, our guide John has factored in a tasting at Rosemount. Better still we are taking a tour around and the tasting and lunch will follow for those who want it.

Conor on His Travels

First we are shown the Hunter Valley ‘cellar door’ tasting. This is an Aussie tradition – you just drive up to the door of these huge warehouses and there is a sham inside who will give you a free tasting of the vineyard’s produce. It’s all done very informally but in that curious Australian way also all very professional and sales oriented – as Kenney Everett would have said ‘in the nicest possible way’. The guy who is doing the tasting is a dyed in the wool denim clad workmanlike Aussie – nothing poncy about this operation – all about good wine and very much to the point He places a couple of bottles of red and white on a barrel top tables and a sheila – Aussie affectionate name for a young lady places glasses and pours.

We have had a few glasses of Rosemount – the red Shiraz is cheeky with big fruit flavours – and the Semillon white is a fruity little wine with overtones of slate and lemon. I’m getting the hang of this wine lark. Some of us are feeling no pain – it’s 11 o’clock in the morning – because we ignored the advise to spit the wine out after tasting it – I mean imagine telling anyone, especially an Irishman, to spit out good – very good – free wine into a spittoon? ‘No way Bruce’ as they say in Queensland. Eventually we reluctantly left this cellar or even stellar experience and went on with the tour.

The most popular brands are the ones we know at home: Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Semillon, Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc. The Aussies were crafty because, rather than do what the French do and name the wine after a region or vineyard, they label with the grape variety and this along with hi tech production saw Australian wines take off in popularity worldwide. Now we got down to the nitty gritty. Our wine lecturer, Sheila is an expert on wine, how grapes are grown, picked, processed, turned into wine, bottled and sent to points of sale worldwide.

Major wine producers from abroad now own Australian wineries, and Australian companies have taken controlling interests in wineries in countries such as France and Chile. The oldest grapevines in the world are here in Australia. Many of Europe’s established vineyards were destroyed by disease in the 1800s, but the vines brought to Australia survived. Funny how a quirk of fate can work in a positive way for some. Wine production here is different. There are no big wooden vats and no wooden barrels, these are used later to age the wine.

The Australian theory is: sell it young without pretension, so instead there are huge stainless steel vats in which the wine is stored. There are no chemicals added but Sheila tells us about bouquet, nose, taste for different parts of the tongue and the one I liked best: ‘length’ of the wine – this is the mmmm and tongue and lip smacking exercise that goes of after the wine is swallowed.

She also reveals that the secret of Australian wine success is control. The wine is popular because only sugar is added. Resident chemists analyse the wine each year and make sure the quality, taste, colour are the same. This may sound boring but it’s what happens to the bulk of the wine and the success is due to the fact that if you drink a 1995 bottle of wine and like it and you buy a 2002 bottle, the experience and the taste is going to be the same – the exact same.

Then our hosts decide to test us and have a competition. They bring out ten glasses of red wine and tell us that only one is a Rosemount ‘Who was poyin’ attinshun?’ Sheila asks. The prize: a bottle of champagne for the table. I got nominated to represent the group mainly because I was still able to stand up and wasn’t hammered like the rest of the crew. I hammed it up and did all the things were told on the course. I stuck my nose way down in each glass and took a mighty sniff. Jilly Goulding and Oz Clarke would have been proud of me. I bigged the whole thing up by saying stuff like

‘ I’m getting blackberries and wet hay with a hint of under the bed socks’ and ‘there are strong overtones of charred rashers here with a tinge of dry cow dung and maple syrup and just a hint of fresh mango and ‘mmmmmm slurp slurp – magnificent length on this one.’

This was eliciting cheers and guffaws from my coach companions and smiles from Sheila. Then I laid it on them. I had come to the eighth glass in the row. I recognised the colour and, when I sniffed it I knew, it was the same Rosemount Shiraz that is always on our table at home for Christmas, weddings, birthdays etc. I didn’t even have to taste it.

‘That’s the Rosemount’ I said. Sheila said ‘But yew hivvint toyasted it’

‘I don’t need to’ I replied cockily. ‘That’s the Rosemount Shiraz, Sheila.’

‘Give ‘im the shimpoyin’.’ Sheila said.

I resisted the urge to waste good drink – so I didn’t spray it- I poured it and drank to Ireland and Australia and Paddy Reilly and the Fields of Athenry. Most of my companions didn’t know Paddy but they got the message with an impromptu acapelo rendition of ‘The Fields’. Another memorable day but now we’re back on the bus and heading for Nundle.”

Buy The Book – its a great read

I hope you enjoyed a little piece of the book. It’s a great read and I have it for sale in the shop. I enjoyed it immensely. The O Mahony’s paid for every bit of the production so every penny from sales goes to the charity. It is only €20 and you can also buy it online at or locally in Clonmel Travel, The Book Centre, McDermotts Irishtown, Texaco on the Cahir Road and at Flahertys Mace Supermarket , Irishtown.

If Conor was still with us, I would enjoy converting him from those Rosemount wines to some of the great wines Australia has on offer. Maybe a selective tasting, including those oldest vines he spoke of – (Langmeil in the Barossa Valley is the vineyard). Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen would form the soundtrack but I am a very average guitar player, so I would let Conor hold court there. When we were kids, Liverpool won everything and Man United were a cup team. I don’t think I could resist that discussion either. I know Conor would take it in the right spirit, maybe?

Christmas Mix Cases Red Nose Wine

November 29th, 2011

We are delighted to introduce 3 new mix cases on offer this Christmas.

We are doing an Old World Budget Case, a go on and Spoil Yourself Old World case and a Brave New World Mix case.
These are all discounted and offer some of our most loved wines from around the world.

Old World Budget Case Only €89.99 ( normally €106.38 )

The “Spoil Yourself” Luxury Old World Case
For those of you who want to spoil yourself a little bit more, then there is the Luxury Old World Case which has wines from Rioja, Chianti, Fleurie, Bordeaux, Chablis, Bubbly, Piedmonte and some crackers from Provence and the Languedoc. This case is normally €159.38 but we are giving it away for €134.99


A Brave New World Mix Case
Aldous Huxley once wrote a book called Brave New World. Of course as everyone knows, he robbed the title from Shakespeare, and from the The Tempest to be exact.

“O wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world! That has such people in it!”

Well great literature needs great wine, so with that most ardous of introductions, let me introduce our Brave New World Mix case with wines from Chile, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. Look out for the rare Sparkling Shiraz ( perfect with Turkey ). This case is only €137.99 ( normally €162.88 ). A real treat this Christmas.


Wine of the Week – New Zealand and Australia

October 27th, 2011

We have 2 new wines of the week. A fantastic alternative to Pinto Grigio from New Zealand called Woollaston that is down from €19.49 to €15.99. “It has sweet pear and apple notes and is weighty and rich and full of flavour with excellent length. It is off dry and a little honeyed, the acidity balances the concentrated fruit and adds a zesty flourish”.

The Red also comes from the Southern Hemisphere, Woodstock from the McLaren Vale region of Australia. Normally €15.99, it is reduced down to €12.99 for the week. This wine is a “sublime red blend loaded with dark chocolate & berry aromas followed by savoury tannins on the palate. A burst of juicy grape flavours showing dark berries, black currants and a touch of spice”.


20% OFF New Australian Wines

July 29th, 2011

It has taken a while, but Red Nose Wine has finally added Australia to the list of countries we are importing from. The container arrived recently and to celebrate, we are going to offer 20% off some of these wonderful wines, until the end of August.


The range on offer includes wines from Langmeil, Bleasdale and Woodstock.

The Langmeil wines from the Barossa Valley is a big hit with the critics and James Halliday just awarded his new scores ranging from 90 to 97 points. These are serious wines, and Shiraz, GSM Blends, Riesling as well as some high end superstars.

The Bleasdale Wine come from Langhorne Creek and offer Chardonnay, Cabernet, Shiraz & and a fascinating Shiraz-Cabernet-Malbec blend.

Let us not forget Woodstock from McLaren Vale and their classic Shiraz Cabernet blend. So get your shrimps, and fire up your barbies… prices start at €10.39 for these great examples of Australian Wines.


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.

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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 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

Article – Twebt A Virtual Taste of Wine

May 8th, 2010

I am trying something very different in this week’s article. It may work and it may not work. I am writing the article in real time, as I take part in a virtual wine tasting. Using the social media format Twitter, I am one of many around the country, and beyond who are simultaneously opening a covered bottle of wine and blind tasting it. The concept is called #Twebt. The rules of #Twebt or the “Twitter Event Blind Tasting” to give it its full name, are as follows. It is open to anyone and this is the 4th event and the numbers are growing every time. You must register for or have a Twitter account. For those of you who may not be familiar with Twitter, it is a social media format where different people “follow” other people and what they “say”, or post online. They are only allowed to “say” something in 140 characters or less. By adding the hashtag #Twebt to the end of your statement, people can then filter so they only see people involved in the tasting, thus ignoring all of the other rubbish that is sent out into cyberspace. Basically, they must get to the point very quickly. The power of Twitter is that your message can get to a huge amount of people instantly and they then have to power to pass it on to their followers instantly. A lot of the recent world breaking news events were announced first on Twitter, and then the TV stations caught up. I use it from a business perspective and have found it very powerful to gain potential new customers, or even press coverage. I was featured in last Sunday’s Tribune and it came about by getting to know the journalist online via Twitter. Anyway, back to the blind tasting.

Each event sees a different merchant making the wine available to purchase online and we all take delivery of the wine in good time for the event. There are 5 things we are trying to identify with the wine and in this order – Whether it is Old World or New World, what year the wine is, what country it comes from, the grape or combination of grapes used and finally the exact region. The idea is the organisers call for guesses as the tasting progresses and as you can imagine, the dialogue can get a little rowdy as well. I will try and write this in time with the tasting. The organiser has just asked for our first guesses on whether the wine is from the old or the new world. I should state that tonight we taste a white wine. I think it has high alcohol content for a wine of this type, so I have just guessed new world. The fact that it has a screwcap is also a hint, but not definitive. Someone else has just guessed Bordeaux, so if they are right, I need to consider a return to engineering. The crowd had seemed to be strongly looking at New World, but there is a late surge towards the old world. I was sweating there for a while, but the supplier just came back with the verdict – it is New World. It’s always nice to get the first one out of the way. There is a temptation to listen to the crowds and that late rush for the old world could sway you. It’s like the exchanges in Cheltenham just before the race goes off. I was always thought to go with your first instinct on a wine, and that is something you have to trust when tasting wines for possible purchase. I am glad I stuck to my guns.
The next thing we are looking for is the year. My instant impression was a wine that had some age on it. I may be wrong, but we’ll see how it turns out. My reason for this is that the alcohol seems to be more prominent. It is not being masked by the fruit. The acidity is high though but the wine does not have a freshness to it you might associate with a young wine. The secondary characteristics such as honey and aniseed are prominent. The result is in and it is 2007. I had guessed 2006, so I am happy enough with my guess. The exact year can often be a guess, unless you know the region, so you are really looking to get close. I would hazard a guess that 99% of white wines currently for sale in Ireland from the new world are less than 2 years old, so an older one does jump out a bit.

Country is the next thing to consider. I always take a guess outright at the very start and write it down on a piece of paper. I am not allowed to guess at the start. It ruins the fun. This time my guess was an Australian Semillon Chardonnay with some age on it. I have just entered my country guess as Australian. After a protracted wait, I am confirmed correct, so I am happy enough to proceed with the next guess, which is the grape variety. In the last blind tasting I got 4 out of 5 correct, but missed one of the grapes in the blend. This time I think it is a blend again, but predominantly Semillon. I can’t choose between aged Sauvignon and Chardonnay. We have just been given a hint that is a single variety so I am fairly confident it is Semillon as the honey is to the fore. It is hard to build the tension of waiting for the Tweet machine to go ping, so after said same tension was endured, it did indeed turn out to be Semillon. I may not have explained it earlier, but as I input my guesses and thoughts, so do the other people and I see there messages online, as they also see mine. For my final guess, I chose the region to be the Hunter Valley, and only because it is famous for its Semillon. I do think there is a high level of alcohol so that leads me to consider another, hotter region, but at this stage it is a guess. My strength is definitely not in identifying Australian Semillon regions. The last event was a Southern France Red, and I was much more confident. The final answer appears online and it turns out not to be the Hunter Valley, but the much warmer Barossa Valley. I rip off the wrapper and see a 14% alcohol Barossa Valley Semillon wine. The tasting is over, and I am very happy with my performance. It must be said that it came on the back of my brother in laws wedding on Friday in Minella, and the post wedding session in Careys on Saturday night. I wasn’t sure I could taste anything. The wedding was a huge success and I had forgotten how good Minella is for weddings. I can still taste the beef. I’m getting hungry now, but its getting late and its time for an early night after a very heavy weekend. It should be noted that I have been spitting the wine all through the tasting in the interest of responsible journalism.

If you want to get involved in the next #Twebt event, let me know and I can get you all the details. If technology is not your thing, it makes a great game for a party. Call in and I will wrap a bottle for you and write down the answers in sealed envelopes.

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”

A Virtual Taste of Wine

A Virtual Taste of Wine

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.

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“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist Mar 4 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.