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Article – No sugar please, I’m sweet enough

August 13th, 2010

Dont mention the Trip

I will not mention travel, foreign food or even nice views from hot climate terraces in this piece. I think I have flogged my recent wine trip to within an inch of its life, if transient ramblings through vineyards exist as an entity, and actually have a life. Have I swallowed a dictionary or am I abusing a thesaurus again? Alas I have not. I ate a Pizza late last night and spent the night having mad, crazy dreams and my conclusion is that one of those dreams must have involved a duel with words. Suffice to say, I don’t remember my dreams and this is a very longwinded way of telling you that I will not talk about my trip to France.


Confusing Times in One’s Head

So what else can I talk about? Lots of things I hope you agree. For instance, rather than mention a wine, or a region or price or quality, I will attempt to answer a question that I get asked about regularly. How does one taste wine properly? One must first desist from referring to ones self in the 3rd person, for that gives the impression that one is full of one’s own importance, and this is one of the many regular battles we in the wine world are trying to change. So, we and oneself shall become myself, yourself and whoever else is tuning in. “Dear Doctor, come quickly. I am having the dreams in the daytime now”. Begone foul cheese dream monster and leave me in peace.


Tasting Wine

I have covered the topic of tasting wine before and at the risk of repeating myself ( as opposed to oneself ), I will attack it from a different angle. Even though the jelly bean test is a great way to reveal the importance of smell in tasting, I will refer to someone whom I have a lot of time for when in comes to wine, the first lady of the critics, Jancis Robinson MW. The MW means she is a Master of Wine, of which there are only 280 in the world today. Apart from all that, she is great at getting to the heart of a wine, and is very level headed about the hype and most important, she has a great palate. She has a book called, “How to Taste Wine”, and for someone who wants to go past the “I know what I like” stage of wine appreciation, this is a good place to start. It covers the basic questions and moves with consummate ease up through the more complex parts of tasting.


Sugar or Spice

The first thing she discusses is what formed the basis of the last article I wrote on tasting, which amounts to, “its all in the nose”. Hold your nose as you eat a pineapple and then release it as you chew. The huge rush of flavour comes from your nose and your sense of smell. Draw air in as you eat your food to enhance the flavours. I don’t have enough space to go into all the various aspects involved, but I think they are all important, so I will start with Sweetness in wine. Depending on how it is received, I will cover acidity, tannin, body, balance and the rest of the equation in later articles. Sweetness in wine is one of the most misunderstood descriptions of a wine. The tip of the tongue is the place where we assess how sweet something is, be it ice cream or wine. The science goes back to the basic principle that “grape juice becomes wine when yeasts act on the sugar in ripe grapes to convert some, or nearly all, of it into alcohol”. The sweetness is determines by the amount of sugar left in the juice, the residual sugar. This sugar varies between 1 and 200 grams per litre, and a ‘dry’ wine is a wine containing between 2 and 10g. You will see a lot of cheaper wines ( think Chilean and Austrian ) containing a lot of sugar, as the enhanced sweetness can often mask the rougher edges that might exist. The wine world wouldn’t be what it is if there was not a direct contradiction to this. In this instance, it is the wonderful sweet German wines and the desert wines of Sauternes and places like it. These are super sweet, and a million miles away from the commercial wines with added sugar. People talk about excessive sulphites giving them a hangover, but added sugar isn’t the best thing for your head either. Have you ever had a Coca Cola Sugar hangover? To sum up, most wines are dry and when you are asking for a sweet wine, as yourself if you want a sugary desert wine, or do you mean off dry.

Name the Wines

For reference, bone dry wines include Muscadet, Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc ( Sancerre ; Pouilly Fume ). Dry wines account for most of the wines out there, and they include most Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, white Burgundy, white Rhone & Provence wines, Pinot Grigio, and many more. To experience medium dry, you should look to my favourite white variety, Riesling, Viognier, Gewürztraminer, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris and the German wines labelled Kabinett, Spätlese or Halbtrocken. You then move up to Medium Sweet with late harvest wines from Asti and Moscato or Tokay from Hungary. There are varying levels of Sweet and then very sweet above this with Sauternes being the standout wine. All of the above are white, and while Red Wines do vary in sweetness, 85% of them are Dry, but if you want a slightly sweeter one, try Pinot Noir, Chateauneuf du Pape or a juicy Australian Shiraz.

Don’t forget that the Tipperary Food Producers Long Table dinner is coming up on August 25th in Chez Hans, The Old Convent, Inch House and Brocka on the Water. I’ll be representing the Network in Clogheen myself and look forward to a wonderful night with Christine and Dermot.

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”

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist Aug 12 2010

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist Aug 12 2010

The SALE goes on

July 2nd, 2010

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



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.


Article – Twebt A Virtual Taste of Wine

May 8th, 2010

I am trying something very different in this week’s article. It may work and it may not work. I am writing the article in real time, as I take part in a virtual wine tasting. Using the social media format Twitter, I am one of many around the country, and beyond who are simultaneously opening a covered bottle of wine and blind tasting it. The concept is called #Twebt. The rules of #Twebt or the “Twitter Event Blind Tasting” to give it its full name, are as follows. It is open to anyone and this is the 4th event and the numbers are growing every time. You must register for or have a Twitter account. For those of you who may not be familiar with Twitter, it is a social media format where different people “follow” other people and what they “say”, or post online. They are only allowed to “say” something in 140 characters or less. By adding the hashtag #Twebt to the end of your statement, people can then filter so they only see people involved in the tasting, thus ignoring all of the other rubbish that is sent out into cyberspace. Basically, they must get to the point very quickly. The power of Twitter is that your message can get to a huge amount of people instantly and they then have to power to pass it on to their followers instantly. A lot of the recent world breaking news events were announced first on Twitter, and then the TV stations caught up. I use it from a business perspective and have found it very powerful to gain potential new customers, or even press coverage. I was featured in last Sunday’s Tribune and it came about by getting to know the journalist online via Twitter. Anyway, back to the blind tasting.

Each event sees a different merchant making the wine available to purchase online and we all take delivery of the wine in good time for the event. There are 5 things we are trying to identify with the wine and in this order – Whether it is Old World or New World, what year the wine is, what country it comes from, the grape or combination of grapes used and finally the exact region. The idea is the organisers call for guesses as the tasting progresses and as you can imagine, the dialogue can get a little rowdy as well. I will try and write this in time with the tasting. The organiser has just asked for our first guesses on whether the wine is from the old or the new world. I should state that tonight we taste a white wine. I think it has high alcohol content for a wine of this type, so I have just guessed new world. The fact that it has a screwcap is also a hint, but not definitive. Someone else has just guessed Bordeaux, so if they are right, I need to consider a return to engineering. The crowd had seemed to be strongly looking at New World, but there is a late surge towards the old world. I was sweating there for a while, but the supplier just came back with the verdict – it is New World. It’s always nice to get the first one out of the way. There is a temptation to listen to the crowds and that late rush for the old world could sway you. It’s like the exchanges in Cheltenham just before the race goes off. I was always thought to go with your first instinct on a wine, and that is something you have to trust when tasting wines for possible purchase. I am glad I stuck to my guns.
The next thing we are looking for is the year. My instant impression was a wine that had some age on it. I may be wrong, but we’ll see how it turns out. My reason for this is that the alcohol seems to be more prominent. It is not being masked by the fruit. The acidity is high though but the wine does not have a freshness to it you might associate with a young wine. The secondary characteristics such as honey and aniseed are prominent. The result is in and it is 2007. I had guessed 2006, so I am happy enough with my guess. The exact year can often be a guess, unless you know the region, so you are really looking to get close. I would hazard a guess that 99% of white wines currently for sale in Ireland from the new world are less than 2 years old, so an older one does jump out a bit.

Country is the next thing to consider. I always take a guess outright at the very start and write it down on a piece of paper. I am not allowed to guess at the start. It ruins the fun. This time my guess was an Australian Semillon Chardonnay with some age on it. I have just entered my country guess as Australian. After a protracted wait, I am confirmed correct, so I am happy enough to proceed with the next guess, which is the grape variety. In the last blind tasting I got 4 out of 5 correct, but missed one of the grapes in the blend. This time I think it is a blend again, but predominantly Semillon. I can’t choose between aged Sauvignon and Chardonnay. We have just been given a hint that is a single variety so I am fairly confident it is Semillon as the honey is to the fore. It is hard to build the tension of waiting for the Tweet machine to go ping, so after said same tension was endured, it did indeed turn out to be Semillon. I may not have explained it earlier, but as I input my guesses and thoughts, so do the other people and I see there messages online, as they also see mine. For my final guess, I chose the region to be the Hunter Valley, and only because it is famous for its Semillon. I do think there is a high level of alcohol so that leads me to consider another, hotter region, but at this stage it is a guess. My strength is definitely not in identifying Australian Semillon regions. The last event was a Southern France Red, and I was much more confident. The final answer appears online and it turns out not to be the Hunter Valley, but the much warmer Barossa Valley. I rip off the wrapper and see a 14% alcohol Barossa Valley Semillon wine. The tasting is over, and I am very happy with my performance. It must be said that it came on the back of my brother in laws wedding on Friday in Minella, and the post wedding session in Careys on Saturday night. I wasn’t sure I could taste anything. The wedding was a huge success and I had forgotten how good Minella is for weddings. I can still taste the beef. I’m getting hungry now, but its getting late and its time for an early night after a very heavy weekend. It should be noted that I have been spitting the wine all through the tasting in the interest of responsible journalism.

If you want to get involved in the next #Twebt event, let me know and I can get you all the details. If technology is not your thing, it makes a great game for a party. Call in and I will wrap a bottle for you and write down the answers in sealed envelopes.

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”

A Virtual Taste of Wine

A Virtual Taste of Wine