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Article – The Supermodel and the Parisian Toilet

February 12th, 2010

Last week the story left off after a very successful trip to the Milliseme Bio organic wine show in Montpellier. Good contacts were made and as I write there are samples ferrying their way across France for re-tasting. The trick is to leave them settle for a week or so after their journey. Wines don’t like to move and when they do, it is best to give them a little rest after the trip. If you ever open up a bottle of wine straight from the holiday suitcase, and it tasted a little tight, it will probably be the fault of the journey. I usually let any regulars who are in shop when I am tasting the wines take them away afterwards. My generosity knows no bounds. Giving away free samples after I have opened and tasted them. How will the multinationals compete? They are running for cover as they read this and the imaginary queues are leaving the supermarkets and forming at Red Nose Wine. I want to tell you two little stories this week, one which is wine related and the other is about this celebrity culture that we cannot escape. It is not about a Chelsea footballer.

After the show in Montpellier I was very hungry and I dined at Les Bains de Montpellier, a fantastic restaurant that is situated behind the opera in the famous Place de la Comedie. It was recommended by a number of wine makers, so I knew that the wine list would be good at the very least. It was, and when you have a list that is based around the food, you know you are in for a treat. I had fish the night before and was craving a steak, medium rare with a rich local wine to wash it down with. The matching of food and wine is often overplayed, and a good rule is to keep it simple. I had the sauce on the side, and let the wine flavour the meat, and vice versa. The wine was a top notch Cotes de Roussillon wine that cost €25 and was sublime. The proteins in the steak complimented the wine and I only went near the delicious sauce with the bread after the steak was demolished. I won’t go on about the value, even in the upmarket restaurants, that exists in France and the continent in general. As so many Irish restaurants are struggling at the moment, I don’t think it is fair to comment on the prices they are often forced to charge. But what I do lament is this constant instance to bring in inappropriate wines for the foods that they serve. They choose based on price and quality rarely comes into it. Even the expensive wines that they have don’t suit the menus. There are of course exceptions to this rule all over the country but what is the point in having a big strong Amarone in a fish restaurant? Why don’t more Oriental restaurants offer white wines like Riesling, where the sugar cools down and integrates with the spices? Why don’t we see more affordable Pinot Noir’s on the menus, as they go great with Chicken, which seems to have replaced potatoes as the staple of choice for the Irish people. I understand why people like Chilean Merlot and Italian Pinot Grigio, and I sell lots of them, but sit down with your wine supplier and by all means buy on price, but think of your customers and your food when making the choices. All that will happen is that the market will dictate a very narrow view on which wines are imported and we will go back to the old days. There are a few independent wine importers like myself who are bringing in something different. While the public are definitely open to the choice, the hotels and restaurants are proving harder to infiltrate. We need the public to demand something more from them, but they need to support them by eating out as well. Staying in is the new going out but we all need to get out of the house. The bad weather over the Christmas resulted in a lot of cabin fever in my house anyway.

After this great meal in Montpellier I managed to eat a very dodgy sandwich on the TGV the next day. If you add to this, that the seat was facing the wrong way for the 3 ½ hour journey to Paris, I was very queasy by the time we rolled into Gare de Lyon in central Paris. After checking into the hotel I went for a short stroll around my old haunting ground of the 5th and 6th arrondissements. I was passing Odeon and fell into a crowded entrance where there were loads of paparazzi and a string of limos and fancy taxis pulling up. I stopped to look and it turns out if was Paris Fashion week and there was a party on here for Jean Paul Gautier. It was funny to watch the people who stepped out of the cars looking for the paparazzi and the quick look and even quicker rejection by the paps, when they realised the mutton dressed up as lamb was not worth a photo. I was about to leave when the paps suddenly went bananas and attacked a car where a 7ft skinny blonde model appeared. I recognised her, but could not be sure who she is exactly. Its a few years since I followed the fashion model scene. I did manage to capture the Odeon fashion scene on video ( I have a small camera for the live blogs from the shows ). If you want to have a look and see if you can identify the model, log on to and hazard a guess. I just missed Dita Von Teese and Kate Moss but my sandwich was starting to do its work, and I had to rush back to the smallest hotel room in Paris. I was due to eat in an old haunt and meet up with some people to watch the Manchester United match. My stomach informed that all bets were off and without going into too much of the graphic detail; I spent the next 12 hours going from the bed to the bathroom. I crawled out of bed in the morning and took a taxi to the airport and finally came back to Cork, and on to Clonmel.

Don’t forget St. Valentine’s Day next Sunday. You can surprise your loved one with a €12 bottle of Chateau Valentine ( a lovely Bordeaux Red from the great 2005 vintage ) which we will be promoting and tasting this week. We also have some lovely gift packs which hold a bottle of bubbly and 2 champagne flutes. What could be more romantic? Congratulations to the owners of the local horse that won at 18-1 in Leopardstown last weekend. For once, I did get the tip and had money on. There was also some great news for one of my favourite producers this week as Nicolas Boiron of Bosquet des Papes in Chateauneuf du Papes won the 5 star Decanter awards for the 2007 vintage with his very special cuvee Chante Le Merle. A lot of my regulars know his wines as the Cotes du Rhone and his traditional Chateauneuf are very popular. I often get people into the shop who love to tell me about the amazing price they paid for a Chateauneuf that they bought somewhere else. Considering the time and oak involved in making a traditional one, I always suggest that they taste the difference. There is just no comparison of flavour, length and power. Now, some people don’t like a wine so complicated, so the light weight Chateauneuf might suit their palate more. That’s fine and a matter of taste, but if that is the case, then they should try a Cotes du Rhone, or something made for their style. One thing that should always be the case for a wine be it an €8.50 Pinot Grigio or a €24 Chateauneuf is that the fruit, alcohol and acidity must be in balance. That is very often the problem with large scale commodity wines and why the cheaper wines from the serious winemakers ( like Nicolas ) are often the very best value.

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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 Feb 11 2010

Trains, Planes and Burping Bacon

February 4th, 2010

Gary Gubbins blogging 'live' from Milliseme Bio 2010

It’s always easier to write about something that has happened to you, as you can hang your little throwaway comments against something tangible. As I mentioned last week, I was going to the Milliseme Bio organic wine fair in Montpellier. I am back and have lots to say, so this article will be stretched over two parts as I feel compelled to talk about the supermodels, paparazzi and the smallest toilet in Paris. Before all of that I need to talk about wine of course. Last week’s article title should have prepared me, but instead it jinxed me. I had all of my planning in place for a very well organised trip. However, the fog on Monday morning delayed the flight from Cork to Paris for three hours and the train to Montpellier I had pre-booked had long since left Charles de Gaulle’s TGV train station. It was getting late when we eventually got to the notice board in the station and I spotted a train leaving for Marseille. I knew it would have to go through Lyon, where there was a chance we could catch a connection to Montpellier. If it didn’t work out, we would end up in Marseille or Lyon, both fine places to find oneself stranded. In the end, after a chat with a very nice conductor, I found out that there was an 11 minute gap between the Paris train arriving in Lyon and the Montpellier train leaving. European trains are great – they actually use the timetables as more than rough guidelines. By all accounts, the conductors will actually enforce your claim for a reserved seat. What a concept. Excuse the slight sarcasm, but I am reminiscing about a trip to Dublin for a Tipperary match where a person would not vacate the seat I had booked online. The fact that I was a little sick on that particular morning did not help the situation. Needless to say, the ‘officials’ did not want to get involved and I am a peaceful man at heart and decided not to physically eject the 6ft 4inch monster from my seat. I digress from my journey into deepest France. We arrived in the hotel for about 9.30 that night, after an 8 a.m. start. Some food and then an early night for there was tasting to be done the next day.

I rose early and had a light breakfast, which was difficult considering the wide array of fried delicacies available at the buffet. When I am doing a marathon tasting I don’t like to be full or even eat anything more than bread or toast, as the flavours can come back at you later. Burping up the scent of an earlier bacon roll while, trying to figure out the subtleties of a good Burgundy is not ideal. Fizzy drinks and mints are also banned. Women should avoid perfume and men should avoid aftershave ( and perfume for that matter ). A shuttle bus was arranged to collect would be tasters near the hotel and I boarded full of enthusiasm. After registration and a cloak room visit, the sleeves were rolled up and I was ready to go. The hall has rows of tables with about 500 exhibitors ( which is actually quite a small show – relatively ), each showing anywhere from 4 to 50 wines. I had a list that I had researched and that needed to be cut again. You need to be brutal in your discrimination, and a simple thing like a bad label will end the visit before it begins. What has a label to do with the quality of the wine you ask? Absolutely nothing but public perception demands a certain aesthetic and I have a list of great wines I could not sell because of the labels. I sell a great Provence wine called Domaine de Tara, but I find it hard to shift, and I constantly get negative feedback about the label. People who taste it in generally love it, and it is very well priced for wines of that quality ( €13.50 and €16.50 ). With this in mind, I attack my list.

Philippe Guillanton of Ch Margui at Milliseme Bio 2010<

I can’t go into too much detail of the actual winemakers I met as I need to go into negotiation stage with some of them and that can be a delicate process and one can’t appear too keen. They might be reading the blog. I can tell you that I met with some really good Italian winemakers and would hope to start bringing in some Chianti, Pinot Grigio, Piedmont, Sicilian wines and others at a really great price. Bringing in the wines direct makes a huge difference in terms of quality but also in terms of price. I am really excited by some of the Rhone Valley wines I found. I have slowly been increasing my range in Rhone Valley and this trip has given me a number of great contacts to follow up on. I tasted some exceptional wines and can’t wait to fly down this spring and negotiate. The easy thing to do at these shows is to decide based on what you taste there. However, you are tasting a lot of wine, you are under pressure for time, and it has been suggested that some people take their ‘special’ wines to these shows. Therefore, if you are serious about importing wines I think it is essential that you go and meet these people in their own house, and see the work they put in on a daily basis. Their passion deserves respect but they also need to know that you will pay them as well. Sitting across the kitchen table from a winemaker (or farmer) and telling them that you will pay them in the agreed time is an important part of the process and travelling to their home to tell them this means a lot to these traditional people. You also need to taste again and be sure of what you are buying.

I also managed to meet some existing suppliers when there. I met with Caroline Feely of Chateau Haut Garrigue and congratulated her on the recent Nationwide feature which has resulted in lots of bookings for the holiday home in the vines as well as big interest in the wines. The video of the show is available on for those interested. The wines are very popular for us, and it’s easy to see why. Great quality at a great price. I also got to meet Philippe Guillanton of Chateau Margui and he introduced me to a very important winemaker. The vineyard in question is famous as its recording studio has seen Pink Floyd, Sting and even the Cranberries record there. More recently it is the home of a very famous Hollywood acting couple, and I have been invited to visit this summer, as it is next door to Margui. I only hope that Angelina is home when I call. I posted a lot of videos and photographs from the trip on - log on to have a peak. Next week I will talk about what happened after the show – a great restaurant and wine list, colliding with the paparazzi and a supermodel in Paris and a dodgy sandwich on the TGV. It’s not pretty and won’t be for those of a delicate nature.

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”

Blogs posted “live” from Trip

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist Feb 04 2010

A wonderful meal and a lady playing bad piano

January 29th, 2010

On my first night in Montpellier, i went to a restaraunt that was highly recomended. It is called Les Bains de Montpellier and is situated behind the opera in the famous Place de la Comedie.

A great bite to eat in Montpellier

A great bite to eat in Montpellier

The city baths were founded in the 12th/13th century and were popular up until the second world war. It was so good on our first visit that i broke my rule of eating in the same place 2 night running, and we went back. After having fish the first night, and after a days tasting at Milliseme Bio (on an empty stomach), the 2nd meal had to be a fillet steak, nice and bloody. And it was cooked to perfection. I can still taste it. The wines consumed on both nights were a delicious Terroir Pic Saint-Loup on night one and a Cotes de Rousillon called Petit Taureau on the 2nd night. Lots of spice in both, but 1st one had a lot more minerality. Very different. After dinner, a walk in the sqaure and a late night piano bar was in full flow.

She didn’t know how to play Slievenamon but she could hardly play whatever she was playing, so we left her for the comfort of a nice wine bar i know.

Live from Montpellier 3

January 26th, 2010

Back in the hotel and black teeth to the fore. Had a great days tasting and I made some great contacts and look to have found some really excellent wines. It was great to catch up to Philippe Guillanton of Chateau Margui as well as Caroline Feely of Chateau Haut Garrigue. Caroline was still enjoying her recent brush with fame when Nationwide featured them on the program.

Phillipe Guillanton and Gary Gubbins at Milliseme Bio 2010

Phillipe Guillanton and Gary Gubbins at Milliseme Bio 2010

I also met up with Vincent Careme of the wonderful Loire Valley Sparkling Chenin Blanc that we bring in.

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine and Vincent Careme

It looks like I found some great wines from all over and there is still work to be done before they become official, but included was a really great wine with a huge history and the wines matched the stories. Super stuff indeed. More will be revealed when it can be revealed.

A dodgy video of me towards the end of the day with black teeth and a slightly glazed look in my eye, even though i spat all day long.

Live from Montpellier Part 2

January 26th, 2010

“Live” video direct from Millisme Bio in Montpellier

Pilippe Guillanton of Chateau Margui

Caroline Feely of Chateau Haut Garrigue

Live from Montpellier – Part1

January 26th, 2010

Welcome to the south of France and Montpellier in particular. I am blogging live from the Milliseme Bio Trade Fair which houses organic and biodynamic winemakers from all over the world.

Gary Gubbins blogging 'live' from Milliseme Bio 2010

I was a long time getting here as fog in Cork airport delayed the flight by 3 hours and our train was gone. We jumped on a later train that was going to Marseille and got off in Lyon – France being France, there was a train going to Montpellier in 10 minutes, 12 hours after leaving Clonmel, we finally arrived in the hotel in Montpellier. We dropped the bags, had a quick drink in the hotel and just about made our resevation in a fantastic resteraunt called Le Bains de Montpellier. The building is based around the 12th century bathhouse of the gentry of the time. The food was fantastic and we had a very nice local wine called Bergerie L’Hotus, Pic St Loup from the Coteaux du Languedoc. Very spicey with Syrah coming to the fore.

Anyway, an early start and i have already met Philippe Guillanton of Chateau Margui and here he is showing his wares to a group of would be buyers. Or maybe they are tyre-kickers. I have spotted a few of them as well. We will get back to Philippe in a later blog.

Philippe Guillanton of Ch Margui at Milliseme Bio 2010

Until then, a tasting i will go and I will be back soon with video, photos and wines….