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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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“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist Feb 11 2010

5 Star Decanter Award – Bosquet des Papes

February 6th, 2010

The wonderful Bosquet des Papes in Chateauneuf du Papes were just awarded the 5 star award from the very influential Decanter wine magazine. It was for their 2007 Chante Le Merle.

Decanter Award Bosquet Chante 2007

This was a vintage that has been hailed since it was harvested, but Decanter’s group of experts including Margaret Rand and Steven Spurrier, were not overly impressed and felt only a few stars really shone, relative to what was expected. Among them was Bosquet des Papes. Customers have been enjoying the 2000 and the 2005 Chante Le Merle for a while now. I still have the 2007 in bond, and haven’t even had it in the shop as I think it is too soon to drink it. Since the award this week, I have already had an order for case from a customer, so my advice to all its fans, get it when it is going – i don’t have huge stocks. My daughter was born on 2007, and her name is on one of the cases in bond.

I am delighted for Nicolas Boiron as he is a gentleman and i first met him and his wines about 8 years ago when i lived in Paris. I was introduced to him by a Danish friend that I played on the same football team with. The multicultural Paris Gaels. We were just knocked out of the French Cup ( very preliminary stages ), and we went to the big wine fair in Porte de Versailles to drown our sorrows. I ended up buying about 6 cases of different vintages ( as well as countless other Burgundy’s and Bordeaux wines ). A very expensive match. Anyway, I had a great day last summer with Nicholas in his domaine and his cellar has wines going back through the many generations that his family has owned the land.

Bosquet des Papes Tasting selection

Gary Gubbins and Nicolas Boiron at Bosquet des Papes

His other wines, including the very affordable Tradition blends and the magical La Folie also fared very well with 3 stars. One of my best selling wines is his 2007 Cotes du Rhone which leans much more towards a CDP than a CDR. I now need to get more of these wines back in before he sells out. To the batphone !!!!

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

Red Nose Wine at Paris Fashion Week

January 29th, 2010

I joined the ranks of the Paparazzi this week as I wandered along the Odeon section of Paris and was nearly crushed by a gang of supermodels. Normally they would be running away from the press, or so you would imagine, but in this case they all seemed to by running towards them. It was funny to watch them get out of their rented limos and wait for the flash of lights to hail upon them. Digital photography might be free, but the paps were not wasting their shots. The odd flash here and there, but they were obviously waiting for someone else. And then she arrived. She was about 7 foot tall in heels and had not a pick of meat on her. I do not know who she was, but I was tempted to give her the name of the great restaurant I ate in the night before in Montpellier. The paps went crazy and shouted her name – Nadia ( or Danielle ). Hard to hear it as they were shouting so loudly. If anyone recognized her, please let me know.

The sad thing was, even if she had spotted me and invited me into the party, I was about 15 minutes away from the full extent of food poisoning – and it was about to hit me very hard. It was from a dodgy sandwich on the TGV. I was to spend the next 12 hours in a small hotel room going from the bedroom to an even smaller room… many many times. But I am home and my appetite is back and Nadia or Danielle will have to party without me.

Latest Article – Ice Ice Baby

January 15th, 2010

Frosty the snowman is still here as I write this article. I am down in the warehouse on a Saturday braving the elements and trying to stay warm. It’s not easy. The heating is on but useless, however the coffee is brewing. It was suggested on Twitter this week that I am making lots of mulled wine to keep warm, but alas, it is not true. The water pipes are frozen and I have no where to cook it up. As Judy once sang, “We’ll have to muddle through some how”. Being that we are in the coldest weather I have seen since I spent a winter of discontent in Canada back in my engineering days, I think it apt to talk about something called “Ice Wine”. It is quite rare and be default, tends to be expensive. But since we probably won’t have a chance to buy any, who cares what it costs. Some might say, if we can’t get it, why write about it in the first place. But my cynical hat is frozen so I will offer this useless knowledge regardless. In Germany it is known as Eiswein and it is a desert wine, as it is in Canada. The grapes have been frozen whilst on the vines. The water in the grape freezes but the sugar does not. This has the effect of much smaller quantities, of a more concentrated, sweet wine.

The grapes do not need to be affected by Botrytis Cinerea or noble rot as it is more commonly known, unlike other sweet wines like France’s Sauternes and Hungary’s great Tokaji wines. Good IceWine should be high in acidity, as you would expect, but also have a refreshing sweetness. I have some Canadian friends in Paris who always have a supply of IceWine and Super Tuscan Italian Reds whenever we visit ( He is of Italian stock ). They just had their 2nd child, so I assume they will do what all parents do for those first few months – panic and hide away. Maybe he’ll send me some if I ask nicely. A reverse baby present as such. The cold is affecting my brain and I am babbling again, so I will go for a little walk to get the circulation moving and then attack the article from the flank. Many people might assume it a rather strange thing to do, make wine from ice grapes. However, there is some evidence to suggest it has been going on since the Romans, and we all know what they did for us. Well, what they did for everyone else. They had a look at Ireland and then thought “a frozen barren land with no natural resources to plunder” – not tonight Josephine Caesar. They called is Hibernia which means Wintery. That’s what you call foresight, assuming they knew 2000 years later we would be in a deep recession, the country would be covered in snow and I would be writing this article and making references to the fact that the Romans possibly made IceWine. The cold is really starting to take hold now.

With that in mind, and the fact that there have been a few customers stocking up for the cold week ahead, I will mention a few subtle facts about IceWine, before looking towards the door and the fireplace. Some Riesling versions in Germany have alcohol content as low as 6%, but the norm is between 8 and 13%. It tends to have a long lingering finish, as you would expect from a desert wine and experts quibble and fight over its ageing potential. The high sugar and high acidity levels would suggest it does age well but I have never tasted an old one, so really can’t offer anything new on this point. But I would suggest you try it if you get a chance, at least just to say that you have had it and did not like it. If I get to meet Filippo in Paris I’ll try bring back a bottle and will open it up in the shop. Stay warm and be sure to enjoy the rich spicy full bodied reds by the fire on these cold cold nights.

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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 Jan 14 2010

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.