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Article – Truth about Sulphites

April 26th, 2010

I am trapped in a concrete wall with a tiny window, as I stare out into the sunshine. It is not a cell per say, but the office in the warehouse. I am focused on writing an article, but I can hear the swish of a golf club or the clink of a glass at a barbeque somewhere in the back of my mind. I am tired after a very busy week, yet cannot wait for the weekend to start. Oh tortured soul, give me peace from this magnetic sun. I signed up for Saturdays when I left the bright lights of Engineering for the dark shade of the vines. Summer is coming though, and I will look forward to my next trip to visit my winemakers in their little piece of paradise, while Tipperary embraces the summer downpour. One of the things that made this week so busy was the visit to Clonmel of one of my best winemakers. Samuel Guibert, of Mas de Daumas Gassac enthralled over 40 people in Nuala Hickey’s packed Cafe in the Westgate last Wednesday night. I may have mentioned he was coming a few times over the last few weeks. For those of you who missed it, it was a very special evening and Samuel charmed all concerned, especially the ladies. The night was a great success and photos and videos from the night can be seen on the blog –

There is a distinct difference between a tasting with a winemaker and someone who sells wine. The passion and the commitment to quality wine shines through, and as an added bonus, you might get answers to the questions that you have wanted to ask for a long time. The Clonmel audience definitely took advantage of their opportunity. Samuel answered questions on all manner of subjects from the truth behind sulphites, to the reason why sometimes, a white wine can be a little fizzy. All of these questions were asked by a very attentive audience in a very interactive tasting. The wines weren’t half bad either, in fact they are among the best reviewed wines in the world. For this week’s article, I will share some of the questions asked and Samuel’s very precise answers.

One of the topics that I get asked about a lot concerns sulphites. Every wine has to display on the bottle that they contain sulphites, even if it is minuscule amounts or buckets of the stuff. Mr. Guibert told us that there are recommended doses for sulphur dioxide, which acts as an anti oxidant and a preservative. You can’t taste it in the wine, which is why it works better than other anti-oxidants. Samuel told us about the ancient technique of using honey, which worked, but changed the taste of the wine dramatically. The next time you are down at your local farmer’s market, buy some honey and mix it with wine. However, don’t expect to like it. Another advantage of sulphur dioxide is that for every year the wine ages, the traces disappear two fold. However, the biggest insight we received was the scope with which the winemaker has to limit his sulphur usage. If you have limited production, you can constantly monitor and check your wine vats. A factory or supermarket wine is like a brewery and they are often forced to err on the side of caution, i.e. pour in the maximum Sulphur dioxide, just in case. The artisan winemaker can check his wine, as Samuel and his brothers do, many time each day, therefore controlling the usage. Samuel claimed that Gassac use very little ( as up to 10 -20 times less ) when compared to large scale producers, but then good wines don’t have to use it as much – the natural preservatives in the fruit shine through. The many people from the tasting who called in the next day to collect their wine without any trace of a hangover were testament to the negligible amount that Gassac use. One of the members of the group cheekily suggested that Samuel tasted his wine 20 times a day ( he checks it that often ), and was seldom sober. However, he confirmed something I have long been preaching – it is all in the nose. No need to taste every hour. He told us that 80% of tasting is in the nose, and the palate just confirms. When I am picking new wines, I nearly always know if I will reject a wine by smelling it. I don’t know if I will accept it as a buy, as you don’t get the length of the wine from the nose.

A very good question was asked by a certain teacher ( not Mrs. Red Nose ). It came on the back of Samuel’s description of the Viognier grape holding more than average residual sugar, and by that I mean more than Sauvignon Blanc. This means it is not dry, but off dry, and has wonderful honey undertones. Their Faune white wine for 12 Euros was possibly the star of the night, outside the Grand Cru wines. The simple description of fermentation is yeasts eating the natural sugar in the grapes and converting them to alcohol, thus converting grapes to wine. With bone dry wines, there is no more ( or negligible amounts ) of sugar to convert, but with sweeter wines, the chances are that it might start fermenting again – for example, if it is exposed to natural yeasts, such as exist in the atmosphere. What happens in effect is the wines become slightly fizzy as the fermentation happens in the bottle. Have you ever opened a white wine and had a light fizz from it. Now you know the reason why, and for the most part, is not supposed to happen. The most obvious wine where it is supposed to happen is Champagne. They have very special bottles and corks to control the power and the process takes much longer. If you ask for a still white wine in a restaurant and find it fizzes a little, send it back. The better winemakers, like Samuel, control the sweeter wines and the conditions they are stored, aged and bottled in.

There were many other questions asked and answered, and I am sure Samuel could have spoken all night. If there are specific questions you have, please send them in to me and I will answer them, or if you prefer, put the question to some of my winemakers. The truth is always easier to swallow coming from the people on the front line. There is a distinct air of summer barbeque about, so until our next wine makers visit, I bid you adieu.

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“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist Apr 22 2010

Mas de Daumas Gassac Tasting

April 16th, 2010

Slideshow of images

A Really great night was had in Clonmel with Samuel Guibert of Mas de Daumas Gassac. Samuel arrived on Tuesday and planned to leave on Thursday. The volcano in Iceland had something to say about that. In between all of this, we really had a special night’s tasting on Wednesday April 14th in the wonderful venue that is Nuala’s Cafe. Between the old style European venue, the sunshine, Samuel’s accent and the aperitif on arrival, we could really have been in a cafe in France.

Before the night’s tasting, I brought Samuel to see the Rock of Cashel. His brother Roman and I both were sentenced to a spell in nearby Rockwell College, and that is how we got talking when I met him in Paris originally.

Samuel at the Rock of Cashel

Samuel at the Rock of Cashel

Samuel spent some time in the warehouse – he was able to see for himself the growing selection at Red Nose Wine. I tried to get him to lift a few cases, but his phone got busy. :)

Samuel at Red Nose Wine

Samuel at Red Nose Wine

Gary Gubbins and Samuel Guibert

Gary Gubbins and Samuel Guibert

We started the tasting off with the Moulin de Gassac range which offers huge value starting from €9. The new Red Le Classic du Gassac also offered the Irish market a new red wine that will really offer huge value for money. Samuel did not get too technical with his presentation and spoke more about the history of Gassac and how his parents, Áime and Veronique started the vineyard after discovering Burgundy like soil in the middle of the Languedoc. Their drive and vision created a truly iconic wine. It has been hailed by many different commentators :

• The French magazine Gault-Milau called Daumas Gassac “Lafite Rothchild of the Languedoc-Roussillon”
• The London Times argued that it tasted like a “Latour”;
• Hugh Johnson called it “the only Grand Cru of the Midi”,
• Michael Broadbent wrote “One of the ten best wines in the world”
• Robert Parker claimed it to be “Exceptional” and “One of the most remarkable non-appellation wines of France.”
• The Wine Spectator’s 1994 article on this region concluded, “Only four wines rated outstanding, and they are all
from the same producer – Mas de Daumas Gassac, the undisputed star of the Languedoc-Roussillon.”

Samuel explaining about where the wines come from

Samuel explaining about where the wines come from

Samuel obviously has his father’s famous charisma as he wowed the crowed and explained everything from the possibility of secondary fermentation in a sweeter white wine ( the fizzy white syndrome ) to the varying experiments with different grape varieties over the years. He tackled questions on sulphites and even got into Hungarian Oak at one stage. Through it all, the crowd sat mesmerized, and I think his invite to everyone to visit him at the Domaine might be taken up. The female side of the room in particular were checking their diaries. I have had 3 calls to date asking when he is coming back, and a number of people who did not attend and were complaining that i did not tell them about Samuel. My pride was hurt, as they knew I would be there, but the wines were the real stars of the night.

Samuel talks about the great Mas de Daumas Gassac

Samuel talks about the great Mas de Daumas Gassac

The wines tasted on the night were :

Rose Frizant – served as an aperitif

Guilhem White

Faune ( Viognier based wine )

Classic Red – the new wine that was launched on the night. Great wine for the price.


Mas de Daumas Gassac White 08

Mas de Daumas Gassac White 09

Mas de Daumas Gassac Red 07

Mas de Daumas Gassac Red 08

The stars i think were the Viognier dominated Faune and the 2007 Mas de Daumas Gassaec Rouge. The Albaran stood up as it always does, but can’t be compared to the Grand Cru.

The creamy undertones in the Mas de Daumas Gassac White 2008 contrasted with the sparkling freshness of the 2009. The Sauvignon lovers preferred 09 and the Riesling/Viognier lovers, 08.
All in all, it was a great night and I can’t wait for my trip in July to visit Samuel and his family in the wonderful Gassac Valley. I had a great time their last year.

A big thank you to Samuel for coming over to Clonmel. Also, a huge thank you to Nuala and Helen for all their work. Lastly, I would like to thank all the people who made the effort to come out. It was a great night.

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine visiting Mas de Daumas Gassac

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine visiting Mas de Daumas Gassac


Video clips on the night

Mas de Daumas Gassac Tasting

April 1st, 2010

We are very excited to announce that Samuel Guibert of Mas de Daumas Gassac will be travelling to Ireland and Clonmel in particular for a very special tasting of Mas de Daumas Gassac wines. As well as the 2007 Red, we will be trying the new 2008 vintage, just released. We will also compare the 2008 White to the 2009. These are very special wines from a very special vineyard. The accolades for the wines stretch back over decades and too many to mention. A sample include :

“Daumas Gassac brought new ideas to the Languedoc by farming organically, using low-yielding old clone vines and planting a multitude of grape varieties to build complexity in their wines. The French magazine Gault-Milau called Daumas Gassac “Lafite Rothchild of the Languedoc-Roussillon” while the London Times argued that it tasted like a “Latour”; Hugh Johnson called it “the only Grand Cru of the Midi”, Michael Broadbent wrote “One of the ten best wines in the world” and Robert Parker, Jr. claimed it to be “Exceptional” and “One of the most remarkable non-appellation wines of France.” The Wine Spectator’s 1994 article on this region concluded, “Only four wines rated outstanding, and they are all from the same producer – Mas de Daumas Gassac, the undisputed star of the Languedoc-Roussillon.”

And for what it is worth, I agree. I had the great pleasure of visiting Gassac last year and saw for myself the magic in the valley.

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine visiting Mas de Daumas Gassac

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine visiting Mas de Daumas Gassac

Samuel Guibert welcoming Red Nose Wine to Mas de Daumas Gassac

Samuel Guibert welcoming Red Nose Wine to Mas de Daumas Gassac

We will also be tasting a range of wines from the Reserve Red & White, Concept wines – Elise, Albaran and Faune, as well as the Guilhem Red & White wines. We will also have an exclusive first tasting of the new wine – Le Classic du Gassac. €10 per Ticket, payable in advance.
Contact Gary Gubbins by phone 052-6182939, email or call into the shop or to Nuala’s cafe for tickets.

The origins of my miseducation in Wine

January 14th, 2010

Many years ago, I used to live near Rue Mouffetard in Paris and would wander along the wine shops and sample and taste and sample some more. Every few months, the vinyeards would travel up and put up stalls for a few days on the square and you could buy at vineyard prices. I remember spending a stupid amount of money on an old Pommard, which i still have. I am too afraid to open it in case it wasn’t worth the money. Rene Miller and his band are regulars all over Paris and if you are very going, you should definetly try and find them. They tend to play in the open air around Moufftard, Notre Dame, Ille de Louis as well as some bars at night… I met them and listened to them many times, but they never asked me to join the band :(

We used to have dancing at the bottom of the hill every Sunday morning. Great hangover cure !!
I miss Paris in Springtime, I miss Paris in the fall… I miss Paris, do you miss Paris, blah blah blah blah blah blah… the bad weather is getting to me… until we meet again Paris.

Italian tasting

December 14th, 2009

The Italian Tasting last Thursday went very well and a great crowd came out again. Thanks to everyone for turning up. I know things are busy at this time of year. A range of wines were open for tasting and there was a hugely different opinions on the wines. Thanks to Gerry Gunnigan for coming down and presenting the wines. Once again Nuala, Paddy and Helen put on a great spread and Nuala’s Cafe is a perfect location for a tasting. Very cosy and the mulled wine on arrival helped to warm them all up. The wines on show were :

Borgo Selene White
Gavi Lugarara, La Giustiniana
Gran Sasso Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
Borgo Selene Red
Poggio del Sasso Sangiovese di Toscana
Barco Reale di Carmignano, Capezzana
Chianti, da Vinci
Chianti Superiore, Poggiotondo
Allegrini La Grola
Alpha Zeta Amarone

We offered great prices on the night and dropped the excise duty back to the new post budget rate.

A picture from the night.
DEc09 Tasting

Red Nose News – December 4th 2009

December 4th, 2009

Hello Wine Lovers

December is here and we are all allowed to spend our money on good wines regardless of the price :)
And then I awoke from the dream, and the recession was still upon us – agghhhh!!!!!!!!

Anyway, less rambling and more news… of which I have lots.

Last Saturday John Wilson of the Irish Times gave us a plug – our Italian Wine Tasting next Thursday to be precise. Great news indeed…. Interest has been great but there are still tickets available. First come first served.

I am recommending wines at different levels, and here we go :

Under €10

Sensi Pinot Grigio @ €8.50 / bottle

€10 – €15

€12.50 –> Albaran : 40 % Cabernet Sauvignon , 25% Mourvèdre, 25% Syrah and 10% Alicante. 30 year old vines.


€15.50 @ La Source Vignelaure Red : 2nd wine of Chateau Vignelaure

over €20

On offer for ONLY €24 @ Bosquet des Papes “Tradition” Chateauneuf de Pape 2006

There are new wines on the special offer page of the website – valid in the shop as well of course

We have a great selection of corporate gifts available – call in for a brochure or click online to get it as well.

If you know any business’s that are doing corporate gifts and want maximum impact for minimum price – please keep us in mind.

We are also doing a tasting along with Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers in the Clonmel Park on Wednesday night as part of a cookery demo.

On Tuesday, I will be under the arches of the Clonmel Main Guard for the Clonmel Chamber / Tipperary Food Producers Network Christmas market.

And last but not least – the winner of the €250 case of wine from the New Zealand tasting is Kevin McAdoo – congratulations to Kevin.

Don’t forget – the next tasting is next Thursday – Italian Wine !!!!


Article – “Listen very Carefully, i shall say this only once”

December 3rd, 2009

“Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once”, whispered the attractive Resistance lady. I may have been on the cusp of adolescence and did not get all of the jokes, but I remember very clearly liking the accent. I am not sure if that is exactly when I started liking France or Europe because back in the 80’s it was difficult to look past the interest rates and the dole queues. However, these were my parent’s problems and I was still getting over seeing the Star Wars – Empire Strikes Back double bill in the Regal. I distinctly remember coming out of that with a sense of awe, but it was a million miles away from wine. In fact, it was a galaxy far, far away.

The BBC TV show ‘Allo Allo did offer something different and looking back now, I can see how the police man with the terrible accent telling Rene that he was “pissing by the window” was revolutionary in terms of what was allowed on TV. Economically they were bad times, but even the suggestion that there was a difference between the wine that you could technically physically consume ( you know the ones ) and wine that actually whispered in your ear as you drank it was considered strange. In many ways it still is. The times were dark but did we know any better – the French and the Italians were used to drinking the good stuff – wine is a staple and to this day there is no duty on it over there. The Irish, in general went to Tramore on holidays, not Nice. I do remember when a particular light came in to the country, and I am sure that it will come again. It was 1990 and the Irish soccer team found themselves among the best of the best in Italy for the World Cup. I’d like to tell you I went down there ( at the age of 16) and was introduced to the great wines of Italy, but I watched most of that world cup in a friends house in Toberaheena. My visits into Europe and the wine world came later. In fact, in terms of Italy, if I was to pinpoint the moment, it was in Capri, an island off Naples. There is a rich ( and trashy ) part and almost poor ( but much more real ) part of the island. In the later, there lies a section of beach at the end of a long dusty road and when you get there, “all” you have is a sunset, a lone bar/café and a beautiful beach. On my visit, Bob Marley sang on the stereo and my wife to be swam in the sea as I sat by the bar watching the sun set. There was a person diving into the sea from the high cliffs, and I told myself that I could do that if I wanted to. I just chose to have some wine instead, and this particular one was a Brunello di Montalcino and I can still remember it. Ironically, you should probably drink a wine like this with food, at night, when it is cold outside and not on a beach. It still tasted great though. The beach, the sunset and the swimmer definitely did help.

As we must, let’s jump back to the modern world and the harsh reality of floods, church scandals and economic ruin. Faith in the human and particular Irish, spirit must be sought in these times. If the church, government or the weather won’t test you, there will always be someone or something that will. The trick is to survive. That is not as always as easy as it might seem, and the pressures of the modern life should not be underestimated.

To help you along the way and to revisit a great time past, Red Nose Wine are having a very special tasting of Italian wine on December 10th in Nuala’s Café at the Westgate in Irishtown. I am hopeful that the Chianti, Montalcino, Barbera, Montepuliciano or whatever we open will drag us to sunnier climates, if only for a little bit. The Italians have a great outlook on life and outlive us to a large degree. They have their scandals and their politicians are interesting to say the least, but they have super wine. The high acidity of wines like Chianti ( or the Sangiovese grape ) matches perfectly with healthy tomato based meals. Not a great one to drink the day after a session though, as this acidity will make for an uncomfortable stomach. That’s why lighter wines (like Pinot Grigio) are great the day after. But let us not bemoan the hangover before we actually enjoy the wine. There is time enough for complaining. If difficulty faces you down, say as Rene would, “Tell him to pass off”, or dream of Naples like Officer Crabtree as he says,”See Niples and Do”. But as the budget approaches, I will l will leave the last word to Herr Flick of the Gestapo, as he answered the phone. “Flick, the Gestapo… No, I said FLICK, the Gestapo”.

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”


Italian Tasting – December 10th

November 28th, 2009

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

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


The Latest Article – “Baboons like Pinot”

November 26th, 2009

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

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

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

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

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Wine Photos 234


Great Tasting last night

November 20th, 2009

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

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