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The latest article – “The X Factor”

November 20th, 2009

This article sees the return of Gerry, the wine merchant with a much more interesting life than mine. Last weekend, with memories of his wine covered shirt from the Italy match fresh in his mind, he travelled to Dublin to see the playoff with Ireland and France. To justify this little jaunt, he needed to visit a few restaurants and see what kind of wine is making its way into the eateries of our fair capital. The match came and went and Wednesday is not yet here, so I can’t really tell you if Gerry and the Irish nation will be drinking Waterford Estate wine from Stellenbosch in South Africa next year. We can only hope. He did visit a few restaurants and wine shops on the day of the match. However it was after the match that he seemed to take an accidental turn into celebrity culture. In Jurys Hotel he bumped into Ronnie Whelan and Paul McGrath and when he went outside to try get a taxi, he had to compete with Bernard Dunne. As it happens, the taxi-man wanted stupid money so both Gerry and Bernard agreed to keep looking. When he finally got back to the city, he met his party for food and ended up beside the parents of a very famous rugby player. I won’t break Gerry’s trust, but their son is very tall, and has red hair and captained the kings of the jungle. By all accounts they were lovely people and told some hilarious stories that I can’t repeat. To top it all off, during the meal and a fantastic bottle of Chianti, Sinead Cusack, the actress passed the table, and someone knocked a bottle of wine over. As luck would have it, the bottle was empty and after apologies were concluded, she had a lovely chat about Tuscany and its wines. She and her husband Jeremy had made a film with Bertolucci there a few years ago. To paraphrase Dom Perignon, “come quickly, I am drinking with the stars”. Dublin was indeed alive last weekend.

I am sure Gerry would have met Louis Walsh and JedWard were they not in London performing in the X Factor. I will try and ultimately fail to bite my tongue about what I think about this show. At the risk of offending a nation, I hate it. It represents everything that is bad about music and television. But the lights are bright and they sell it very well. This is very much like the vast majority of the wine that is sold in this country. You see, there was a point to the celebrity story, apart from the very obvious name dropping. The marketing people know how to sell this type of wine, and even give you the impression that it is value for money, while a lot of the time, it is overpriced. It all comes down to substance and Bob Dylan or Tom Waits would never win the X Factor because they tell the truth. A real wine also tells the truth. It shows you the heart and soul of the people who made it and tells you about the history of their family and region. It won’t compromise and it won’t be for everybody. But the beauty of wine is that there are so many styles to choose from. You can try a different one and find your taste. I like jazz, blues, rock and folk music but I would like to think that I can appreciate the good pop music that’s out there. Take That are just not my kind of thing, but they have good tunes – they have the X Factor. How many of the factory wines offer the X Factor. The acts that go on the show get one song in the charts and fade away to nothing. There are always exceptions, but you can waste a lot of time and money finding them. Ultimately, you don’t remember them. I can still almost taste some of the great wines I had the good fortune to drink over the years. A lot of them were cheap wines, but had a lot of soul.

The restaurants and cafés that were visited in Dublin were much more adventurous in their wines than the regional restaurants tend to be. Of course they have a large tourist and business footfall and I can understand this decision from a commercial perspective, especially in these dark times. In Dublin, there was a lot of wine being drunk at the 28 euro bracket. While not cheap, the wines were very high quality and the margin was not as heavy as it might have been. This was offset however by groups buying the 2nd bottle. The chances to eat in these restaurants and meet the celebrities are rare, but we can buy a nice fillet steak from Pat Whelan and other local butchers, as well as potatoes and vegetables from the local farmers in the market. We can then match it with a wine that this artisan food deserves. Coming up to Christmas I am planning on matching foods to wine a little more. If anyone has any particular food they would like matched, please let me know. Don’t forget to log onto the blog at or follow the ranting on Twitter –

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“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”