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Sam Neill – The Big Interview

November 19th, 2012

Firstly, thank you very much Sam for taking the time to come over to Ireland and in particular Red Nose Wine to help us launch your wonderful wines on the Irish market.

Sam Neill visits Red Nose Wine

Sam Neill visits Red Nose Wine

Q1 – I will try and get the obvious questions out of the way quickly. What was the first wine that you had that changed your perception of wine from a commodity to something more profound
A Gevrey Chambertin drank in Lausanne Switzerland – it was like Gods hand came out of a cloud and changed the course of my life.

Q2 – What is the greatest moment you enjoyed with a bottle/glass of wine, and where was it? I always find surroundings & company can have a big influence on this.
The first time we served our own wine at a dinner party to a bunch of my thoroughly disgraceful and undeserving friends – a great wine like that is wasted on them frankly.

Q3 – If you were a singer instead of an actor, who would you be and why?
Brian Wilson without the psychedelic drugs thank you very much, although Carl was the better singer.

The Beach Boys

Q4 – If you were to have written any song, what would it be and why?
This week I would say ‘Don’t talk, put our head on my shoulder’ a wonderful version I recommend is by Anne Sofie von Otter and produced by Elvis Costello.

Q5 – When I lived in France, I was told that after people’s flirtations with other regions, all roads eventually lead to Burgundy, and Pinot Noir. Where does Central Otago fit into this odyssey?
When you have got to Burgundy, stay on the same road and it will eventually bring you to Central Otago, and everything we do originates from Burgundy – vines, methods we use to grow those vines and to make the wines subsequently – it all comes from Burgundy, but that wine take a very subtle change of expression at the other end of the world.

Sam meets the great Galilieo at Coolmore

Sam meets the great Galilieo at Coolmore

Q6 – Can you tell us about your latest film project, and did you know that your co-star already has a connection with Red Nose Wine. Have you tasted Domaine des Anges - Cillian Murphy’s father in law make this wine?
Yes, I am doing a 6hr project for BBC 2 called Peaky Blinders alongside your man from Cork Cillian Murphy. A fellow wine enthusiast

Q7 – Why weren’t you in Lord of The Rings?
Actually I was unavailable – no loss for them.

Q7 – What are your plans for Two Paddocks long term? Are you looking to spread the good news all over the world or just the lucky countries, like Ireland?
There is not enough to go around the world but I am always happy to see it in places where people truly love wine, so more of that please.

Q8 – Lastly, you were born in Ireland, and lived for a few years up North before leaving for New Zealand. With this strong connection to Ireland, and your great standing back in New Zealand, could you possibly ask that the All Blacks take it easy on us the next time we play them. The last one really hurt.
I’m always happy to please but now you have gone too far.

Thank you very much, and it is a pleasure to represent such a truly wonderful collection of wines. The feedback so far has really been superb. Sam’s Two Paddocks wines are available online or directly in the shop. You can follow Sam on Twitter at his @twopaddocks handle.

Sam Neill’s Two Paddocks has arrived

October 26th, 2012

I used to love horror films as a kid and it was hard enough to scare me. The only ones that really got to me were the ones that messed with your mind. The Omen films really got to me as did Psycho, but who would have thought that Damien Thorn himself would end up making wines which are simply phenomenal, and very well priced when compared to other wines of that quality – Central Otago is regarded the best place in the world for Pinot Noir outside of Burgundy, so we are delighted to be bringing them into Ireland.

Sam Neill and the fruits of the vine

Sam Neill and the fruits of the vine

They have 2 Pinots Noirs and some Riesling ( which we hope to have over in the next shipment ). The first Pinot is The Picnic Pinot and this is rich ruby in colour, with hints of brambles, plums up front, with a distinct herbs and spice in mid palate with the savoury undertones that are distinctive of the vintage. This wine shows good length and depth in its youth and will develop more complexity with bottle age.

The Two Paddocks Premium blend is made from three vineyards – Gibbston, Alexandra, and Redbank at Earnscleugh, this wine is a quintessential cool climate Pinot Noir. As in the vineyard, this wine is hand crafted using traditional methods and aged in small French oak barrels for 11 months, using a mix of older and new (25%) barrels.

The vineyard has a great blog with lots of things like videos and the staff’s Top 10 songs of all time as well as guests Top 10 ( Vinnie Jones is one as well as lots of actors and musicians ) – I would LOVE to get on that list – I’d have Dylan, Cohen, Wilson, Waits, Mitchell, Morrison Van, Morrison Jim and many more … I like the video where he opens a case of wine ( Joni Mitchell style ).

sam-truck

We are hopeful that Sam will get a break in his filming schedule to come over to Ireland and officially launch the wines himself, so keep tuned for details… hopefully, maybe, please Sam… I’ll play a Beach Boys song on my guitar if you come …

Article – Wedding Wines

March 2nd, 2011

“The Bells, the Bells”. I can hear them ringing in my head. That may be due to the amount of wine tastings I have been attending lately, but I think it is due to the wedding season being upon us. I was at a very lively wedding fair in the Clonmel Park recently and it was abuzz with innocence and youth.

I remember it well. I was married in Minella back in 2004. My wife never asked me to go to a wedding fair though. She knows me too well. I turned up and the hair was combed. My promise fulfilled.

Wines for all occasions

I love supplying the wines for weddings as people really care about the wine being good but are also on a budget. This is where small independent importers come into their own as we can offer consistent ‘direct from the vineyard’ prices for serious quality wine. The happy couple can also taste the wines and be confident in their selection. This approach has also worked for christenings, communions and confirmations.

But apart from all the obvious self promotion, the thing that people want to know about wedding wines ( apart from the price ) is what to serve. As much as I love Riesling, I would not serve it at a wedding and as much as I adore Pinot Noir, it is too expensive and most people won’t get it.

happy-bride

Its all about the bride people

I am going to abandon my normal position on being adventurous in your wine choices. In terms of large gatherings where the wine is very much down the agenda in terms of the day’s priority (It’s all about the bride), I would suggest being conservative. My advice is stick with a crowd pleaser, and I am not talking about the bride. Stick with what is popular and goes well with beef or salmon.

Sauvignon Blanc is popular for a reason but closing in on its popularity is Pinot Grigio. These are the two white varieties of choice at the moment. The poor old Chardonnay grape cannot get a look in but it’s a pity as it is great match with that old stalwart of Irish weddings, Salmon.

Chilean Merlot still seems to lead the charge with the reds but the French Languedoc Syrah-Grenache blends are doing very well as that whole authentic earthy style sits well with the Irish palate. Cabernet Sauvignon is still doing well as it goes so well with that other classic, beef.

We want the finest wines available to humanity

You can’t ignore the price issue and to be honest when it is a large gathering and costs are already astronomical, price is important. However, If you want to spoil your guests, I am ready to serve. I am still waiting for Richard E Grant to jump in the door of the shop and scream “We want the finest wines available to humanity, we want them here, and we want them now”. For those of you not familiar with it, it’s a scene from one of my favourite films, Withnail and I.

 

To sum up, keep it simple and keep it cheap with wedding wines but don’t poison your guests. They are bringing you presents after all so you need to treat them well. If the wine is bad they will tell everyone and they may not come to your next wedding.

Enough with the bloody politics

This is my last political commentary – I promise. By the time this is published, we will have a new Taoiseach. Hopefully at that point, we can move forward as a united country and build a future that works for Ireland. I think that maybe I should run in the next election.

As Jackie Healy Rae famously said that he represented “the people who eat their dinner in the middle of the day”, I could represent the people who drink wine with it. I should probably distance myself from those who drink wine in the middle of the day.

This week I met with some like minded importers from around the country at a little wine sampling / dinner in Ely Bar in Dublin. Lots of progress was made and a serious plan put in place for the year. We were able to confirm our new shared Spanish wine collection which starts at €8 Euros per bottle.

New-Wine-Collection

Don’t miss our current 20% Sale on Languedoc wines. Now that is value.

Who wants a coffee?

As mentioned last week, Red Nose Wine is delighted to announce we have taken delivery of our first coffee. We are constantly expanding our range in wines, but we are now giving you another reason to call in. The coffee comes in full beans and ground bags and comes from Tipperary Food Producer Tommy Ryan of Ponaire. They have a fantastic roasting facility and have a range of flavours to choose from. We will be adding more quality coffee producers to the range in the coming weeks.

Don’t forget to log onto the blog at www.rednosewine.com/blog or follow the ranting on Twitter – www.twitter.com/rednosewine

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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 info@rednosewine.com

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

The SALE goes on

July 2nd, 2010

The weather remains, and the poor old barbecue is wrecked. It never knew work like this before.

SALE SALE SALE

SALE SALE SALE

The sale has been very popular and the 20% and 15% wine have really been well taken up. If I am to pick my own stars among that batch, I would say

The Pont de Brion Graves - down from €15 to €12 and from the mythical 2005 Bordeaux vintage.

The Chateau Margui Blanc – down from €18.50 to €14.80 and in many a Michelin Star restaurant the world over.

The Michel Bailley Pouilly Fume – down from €19 to €15.30 – we had this last weekend and it drinking perfectly. High end Sauvignon from the Loire.

In Red, the some of the standouts include :

Twiggy - the famous Montepuliciano d’Abruzzo wine withe a piece of vine on the bottle – down from €17 to €14.45

The Cantina di Montalcino Sangiovese – Chianti without the price – down from €14.50 to €12.33

The famous New Zealand Muddy Water Pinot Noir- down from €28 to €23.80

This is all about while stocks last, so now is as good a time as any to stock up. Beat the recession pricing.

Have a great weekend and don’t forget Twitter Blind Tasting ( #twebt) on Sunday night at 9.
You can still buy your mystery bottle for €14.

Gary

Offer – Buy 6 get 1 Free – New Zealand Wines

May 27th, 2010

Red Nose Wine are launching a very special and innovative new style of weekly promotion.
We strive to have the wines at the best prices we can, so there really isn’t a whole lot left to discount.
What we can do however, is offer you free stock. So, we will offer a different type of offer every week.
We will bring specific countries, areas, grape varieties, and styles together and give you the chance to get free wine.

THE OFFER

 

Each week, there will be 3 Wines on Offer – of a shared theme.
Buy 6 get 1 free
You can mix and match the wines
You can choose all the one wine OR any mix of the 3 on offer each week.
You must choose a total of 6 in order to get the free one
It won’t suit you every week, but we’ll keep it fresh.

To start with – the 3 wines this week are :

New Zealand – A Taste of the Exotic

New Zealand Vineyard - Nelson

New Zealand Vineyard - Nelson

Tussock Sauvignon Blanc 2009 – Tropical, Delicious and Only €13
Greenhough Pinot Noir 2006 – Ripe black cherries & dark chocolate : Only €16
Waipara Springs Premo Dry Riesling – Fresh lemon zest & crisp green apples : Only €14.50

Buy 6 bottles : all of one, or any mix and get a 7th bottle free.

The details

Just order as normal online – pick a mix of the six online and tell us which one you want free
( if you get 12, you will get 2 free ).
Or you can pick your mix of 6 offer wines and any 6 other wines to make up a case.
The choice is yours.

“Life is much too short to drink bad 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.

Don’t forget to log onto the blog at www.rednosewine.com/blog or follow the ranting on Twitter – www.twitter.com/rednosewine

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

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist Mar 4 2010

Latest Article : Sacre Bleu – The French caught cheating!

March 3rd, 2010

A little bit late, but it was topical when it was published in the paper.

“A frosty mist gathers over Tipperary and I am tempted to talk about the informality of an age that forgets the greatest of the lessons from the past, but I would just be ranting and my anger might even surface, and I am just too old to be an angry young man. Does that sentence even make grammatical sense or will my old English teachers from the Ard Scoil come looking for me in the shop. To be honest, I hope they do. I listened to them for long enough, so they can endure my ranting and correct me as they may. In fact, let them call and we will discuss why Hamlet is the greatest of the bard’s plays. It should be compulsory every year for Leaving Cert students, as should basic driving ethics. There is a shadow that is now nudging my fingers towards a subject that I am supposed to be writing about. Could it be wine?

I will discuss an incident that may shock some of you. Disbelief will leak from the pages through the ink smudged fingertips of North and South Tipperary readers, and the world will stop to listen, as you scream from the rooftops : “Sacré Blue – the French have cheated”. Have you read the words properly; have I, a card carrying lover of France and the French lifestyle written them? I have, for I cannot ignore the biggest story in wine for the last number of years. Every self respecting wine writer is discussing it, so I will fall into line and do my duty. The single biggest wine producer in the world, E&J Gallo of California, has a very famous brand called Red Bicyclette, which takes an American commodity view of French wine. After the success of the film Sideways, which preached the virtues of Pinot Noir, they decided on the need to capitalize on the American nation’s demand for a cheap version of this grape. They bought truck fulls of the stuff from local French coops through a negotiant, or agent. It was all running smoothly and sales were up until a recent development came to light – 12 local figures from the Languedoc region of France were convicted of masterminding a scam where 18 million bottles of plonk were sold as Pinot Noir. Instead of the much more expensive grape that Gallo thought they were buying, they in fact were sold Merlot and Shiraz, and by all accounts, not particularly good versions. The problem with Pinot Noir is that its yield is very poor compared to its compatriots, and it is also very difficult to grow, as it needs a very balanced mix of cold and heat and rain. If you were to sell the farm and move to France and become a winemaker, and some of us hold that dream dear, you would be foolish to start making Pinot. You would be pretty much guaranteed to be poverty stricken by year 2. With other grapes, you might make it to year 3 or 4, for as the old saying goes, “in order to make a small fortune in wine, start with a large one”.

The scandal’s big deception took place from January 2006 until March 2008 and 13.5 million litres of wine were consumed in America. The French negotiant who duped Gallo was caught like many a person or company gets caught, by greed. Their books showed that they were paying 40% under the going rate for Pinot Noir and further investigation showed that eight different wine cooperatives were in on the scam. It does not reflect well on the palates or decision making of the Gallo buyers, for there is a very distinct difference between Merlot, Shiraz and Pinot Noir. They are the victim in this case, but the reality is that their customers are.
The big danger now is that the greed of these commodity grape growers will reflect badly on the small artisan wine makers of the region who give their lives to their vines. These are the small family wine makers who cannot compete against Gallo and the other corporate wine brands that you see on supermarket shelves. Gallo will invest millions to defend their image after this scandal, but the small winemaker who had nothing to do with it might now also suffer. The timing is poor as the Languedoc Roussillon region is now finally being seen as one of the great value regions in the world. I have slowly being increasing my range and they are proving very popular. After my first contact with the winemakers I always get samples sent back to Ireland to re-taste and then I travel to see the winemakers’ cellar and walk in their vineyards and identify the grape varieties on the vine. I then know that the wine that I bring back to Ireland is the real deal and the feedback that is growing all the time justifies all the work involved in making sure that the customer can taste the difference. I firmly believe that by making the customer the focus of your business, you will reap the rewards in the long term. With this in mind, I am preparing for yet another portfolio wine tasting as it is the season for these things. I think I have tasted over 400 wines this month ( and spat them all I may add ), so my dentist is due a visit. Before that however, there are many more wines to taste – Wednesday sees an Italian and Australian tasting in Dublin. Have wine glass, will travel.”

Don’t forget to log onto the blog at www.rednosewine.com/blog or follow the ranting on Twitter – www.twitter.com/rednosewine

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

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist Feb 25 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 Sourgrapes.ie 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.

“Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.”

December 30th, 2009

The turkey is well and truly gone and the last of the wine bottles have been taken to the bottle bank. We are all just about ready to start the useless promises and resolutions for the New Year. Ink never refused paper, and my articles are surely proof of that. Just as we are about to capsize into the sea of good living, we realize that New Years Eve has to be endured. No more wine, no more food, no more ice – we have enough. Once more into the breach and all of that jazz. If Pinot Noir was the wine of choice for Turkey, then Champagne has to be the way to jump into the next decade. Tradition dictates and we follow. At least, we used to follow. That drink of kings and queens is on the decline. In recent years, the sales have plummeted to be replaced by Cava and Prosecco, their Spanish and Italian neighbours.
This is not entirely a fair comparison as the process involved can vary hugely. They tend to use the much cheaper Charmat method which uses stainless steel tanks for the secondary fermentation. Champagne is a sparkling wine that can only come from the region of Champagne in northern France. Nothing else can legally call itself Champagne, although you will see bending of this rule in such ‘delights’ as Californian Champagne.

This decline has a lot to do with the Champenoise people themselves. I have continually searched for well priced champagne and have met with many small family vineyards on my travels to France but could not find the price / quality ratio. I won’t give up, but to be honest, there isn’t really a market for it, so I won’t rush in. They won’t loosen the pricing – the fact that the duty is double in Ireland for sparkling wine does not help the situation. In their defence they use the “method traditonalle” to make the bubbles. After primary fermentation and bottling, a second alcoholic fermentation occurs in the bottle. This second fermentation is induced by adding several grams of yeast and several grams of rock sugar. According to the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée a minimum of one and a half years is required to completely develop all the flavour. For years where the harvest is exceptional, a millesimé is declared – you really pay top dollar for these wines. In general though, most champagnes are of the blended variety – different years in the same wine. The grapes used are also a blend – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The real labour in the production is the remuage – the manipulation ( often manual ) of each bottle, in order that the lees ( deposit of residual yeast ) settle in the neck of the bottle. This is later frozen and taken out and the bottles resealed. The famous monk Dom Perignon is credited with accidentally inventing champagne many vintages ago, and his famous explanation of “Come quickly, I am tasting the stars” is often quoted. It’s a good story and true in many regards and he was revolutionary in the advancement of techniques, especially in bottles and corks. Necessity was indeed the mother of invention because without the tougher bottles and new corking, the bottles kept exploding. Just don’t mention Christopher Merret, the English scientist and physician who documented the process a few years earlier. Of course there was no blogging or twitter back then, so how was Dom to know.

Champagne was for many years the tipple of choice for the rich and famous. I suppose it still is in some circles. Being neither rich nor famous, it does not feature heavily in mine. That could be due to the fact me and the bubbles don’t get on. I can drink one glass, but after that the bubbles make there way up to the sensible and sensitive part of my brain. I start to babble, even more than normal and suddenly start to care what people are saying. Very unlike me. Basically, I can’t handle the stuff. It puts me on my ear. I would have been useless in the roaring twenties when it was the only tipple with which to wet your whistle. Some people who it did agree with and who left us some wonderful quotes include :

“I only drink Champagne when I’m happy, and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I am not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.” (Lily Bollinger)

“Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.”
(F. Scott Fitzgerald)

And last but by no means least, is one that might be perceived as a little dated, but the bubbles are making me do it. “One holds a bottle of red wine by the neck, a woman by the waist, and a bottle of Champagne by the derriere.” (Mark Twain)

So, as 2010 approaches I do hope you make realistic resolutions. If I could suggest but one – for that detox period in January. Drink less wine to be sure, but drink better wine.

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”.

Don’t forget to log onto the blog at www.rednosewine.com/blog or follow the ranting on Twitter – www.twitter.com/rednosewine

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

Icons of the World Stand Up

December 18th, 2009

It’s that time of year when we reflect on what’s gone before and we look forward to what’s on the way. Considering what has passed, may I quote the great Bob Dylan, “Let me forget about today until tomorrow”. Any by tomorrow I mean many years from now. Onwards and upwards and all of that type of positive sentiment. During the heady days of my youth when I was not as ‘sophisticated’ and insensitive to criticism as I am now, I used to read a little bit. Once I got used to the language I really enjoyed Shakespeare. I found it all very relevant to the modern world and that is probably why it is held up so high in literature. To quote the hip kids of the street, he was down with it. By writing this last sentence I have condemned myself to never having being in anyway hip. Well I don’t care and never have, so that probably makes me hip in a different sort of way – what do the hip kids think? Are they reading this article, do they read the blog or do they follow me on twitter? Maybe I am needy after all. Anyway, there is a famous speech in Henry V where the good king rallies the troops as they face almost certain death on the battlefield. His cousin Westmoreland had a moan about the situation and Henry launched into speech which by its end had made you feel sorry for anyone who wasn’t about to die in this battle. They would not have this chance at immortality. “We happy few, we band of brothers.. on St Crispin’s Day”… Some retailers might feel that this year has been one long St. Crispin’s Day, so that is why I suggest we look forward, not back. With that in mind, I will leave the best of the year lists to the papers and magazines. I will talk about wine, and in particular – very expensive iconic wines that most of us can never expect to taste, at least not this year. But once St. Crispin’s Day has passed and until that day shall come, I will give you an alternative that is affordable.

First up, the famous Chateau Pétrus. This is a wine from the right bank of Bordeaux and in particular the village of Pomerol. Considering all the bad press that Merlot gets, it is strange that one of the worlds most sought after wines is predominately Merlot. It is only 11 hectares in size and produces on average 2,500 cases per vintage. The wine has many fans, and sells for huge money. The current price in London for a bottle of 2005 is 2,800 sterling. I have held it in my hand but never tasted it. I have tasted its next door neighbours and hold a very good 2005 Pomerol from just down the road in the shop that sells for 26 euros. Alternatively, I have a very good Lalande de Pomerol for 19 that gives you the idea without the pricing. However, if you get invited to a party and they are serving Pétrus, don’t miss the chance.

Next up is Burgundy’s famous Pinot Noir, Romanee Conti – I covered this in a previous article but suffice to say, this is the one I want the most in my collection. I have a 1er Cru Nuits St Georges for 55 euros that gives you an idea of what to expect. This will be my Christmas dinner wine.

From Chateauneuf du Papes there is the famous Au Vieux Telegraphe or the new icon Clos du Papes. I have tasted these and even own a few bottles. Clos du Papes is owned by the Avril family who’s daughter is married to Bill Kelly of Kelly’s in Rosslare. For such an iconic wine, it is very reasonably priced. You can pick it up for about 55 to 60 euros a bottle. A very nice alternative is Bosquet des Papes which I sell on offer for Christmas for 24. Both are the traditional style wines and typical of the real authentic wines of centuries gone by.

Italian wines are less well known for iconic wines and vineyards, but more for iconic wine types and chief among them are Brunello di Montalcino, Amarone della Valpolicella and Barolo. These are very different wines from Tuscany, Veneto and Piedmont respectively. What they all share is a necessity for food and age if possible. At our recent Italian tasting, we had a huge response to the Amarone and it was easy to see why it won the Decanter World Wine Award Gold Medal, as did the Barolo. There are countless other icons from around the world and to list them all would be a book – in fact, many such books exist. I have a few of them in the shop if you want a peek.

The good news is that we are taking the excise duty off all wines immediately, even though the wines cleared customs at the top rate. Our little Christmas gift to you, and also, in the run up to Christmas we are open 7 days a week and will be opening many of the wines I have just mentioned. Come in and taste the difference. Thanks to everyone for reading the articles all year and especially for those of you who called in and ‘tasted the difference’. Remember, we deliver nationwide, so don’t get caught without good wine this Christmas. Log in or call in – you are more than welcome.

Don’t forget to log onto the blog at www.rednosewine.com/blog or follow the ranting on Twitter – www.twitter.com/rednosewine

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

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist Dec 17 2009