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When I’m 64 – Quality Mixed Case

September 9th, 2013

When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now.

I was a Beatles fan from an early age and remember liking that song and laughing at how old someone would have to be when they’re 64 (I am aware that the answer is in the question). The trouble is its not so funny anymore as I approach 40.
Like many parents I sent kids back to school and took on all the emotion that goes with that. The cliche is true. It all goes by too quickly. So, this mix case is dedicated to the parents. With that in mind, we’ve tried to put in something really nice to help ease you back in. The NZ Sauvignon and the Rioja stand out for me.


The name comes from the fact that this mix case is discounted back to €64 – The wines on offer include :

Ant Moore Sauvignon Blanc
Bozeto de Exopto Rioja
Casas de Herencia Red
Casas de Herencia White
Santa Alicia Sauvignon Blanc Reserva
Solonio Il Grottone ( Ripasso Style CabSab Syrah )


The Spanish Odyssey Part 2 .. The Road to Valencia

May 30th, 2013

Last week I left you in a vineyard in Rioja with a French wine maker called Tom. The story continues with Tom and his never-ending tour of his little plots of old vines. He has tiny little fields ( as an Irishman might call them ) scattered around where Rioja Alta meets Rioja Alavesa. If you recall last week, many regard this border to be the best place to make Rioja.

Anyway, as much as I like looking at old bush vines, after the fourth of fifth vineyard in a row, it gets kind of old and bear in mind this was about seven o clock in the evening and we had been on the road since early morning. As he turned off another bohreen I said there had better be a tapas bar at the end of this field. He said there was and I didn’t appreciate his sarcasm. My own was at least warranted.

The Tapas Bar on top of a Vineyard

However to my great delight Tom drove up a dirt road and onto the top of a hill and parks in the middle of a vineyard with spectacular views. He opens up the boot and takes out a cooler bag with white wine, chorizo, cheese and bread. The glasses were clinked and myself, Tom and Sancho ( the other importer I referred to in the last article ) were staring out into the late evening sun, all of us wishing we were there with someone else.

Its a tough life ...

Its a tough life ...

Of course the person I would have preferred to share it with was my wife and I can only hope and assume the others were thinking the same ( their wives, not mine). Anyway, it was a view and setting wasted on three men in their very late thirties. In lieu of the romance, we took to the drink – as men often do. As we watched the sun set, the white wine turned to red, and the second bottle of red appeared magically through the mist. Like I said, it was all very romantic.

Football & Wine

I’d like to say the night ended there and we went back to our hotel to catch up on emails and all the admin that goes with owning a business. Alas, winemaker Tom insisted we visit his town, a lively little spot called Logroño. First port of call was a bar to watch the Barcelona match ( the Real fans cheered when they were stuffed ), followed by a wine bar to taste Tom’s wines in more ‘traditional’ surroundings and just when I thought I was getting away, a late night bar was found just to finish me off.

Lately I have been known to wax lyrical about The Forge CrossFit gym and some would say I might get a little boring talking about it. Anyway, the fear of boring people is not something I worry too much about, so at about 2am and after the late bar, I ended up talking about the gym and showing my accomplices what a burpee was.

A Burpee in Rioja

The miracle was that I didn’t smash my face into the Spanish ground. I am sure there is CCTV footage of this in central Logroño, which is a great little town I would highly recommend you visit. If you want to know what a burpee is then I suggest you call to The Forge. You might be sorry you asked though.

Post burpee, we found a taxi and suffice to say the early start the next morning was put off for a few hours and it was only on checking out of the hotel did we realise that Sancho had lost his iPhone and his wallet. For some miraculous reason I was feeling fresh as a daisy and Mike was sick as a small hospital.

One thing I should stress about this trip is the hospitality of the people we met was immense and they genuinely were delighted to show us around their family wineries. However bad we are having it in Ireland, and we are having it bad, the Spanish face a far worse scenario. I drove from Barcelona across through Zaragoza past Madrid and onto Valencia and the lack of trucks on the road was palpable. The unemployment rate for under 26s is in near the 45% bracket.

We had another meeting in Rioja with a potential new supplier and rather than squeeze him into this article, such is his tale and such are his wines, that he deserves his own article ( if and when we cut a deal for the wines ). With Rioja in our mirror we headed on a longish drive to Medina, which is in Rueda country, home of one of the most popular Spanish white wine styles.

Rioja ... Alavasa

Rioja ... Alavasa

Campo de Medina

For those of you who like Sauvignon Blanc, I can recommend this often cheaper variety which is made up of Verdejo, Sauvignon or a blend of the two. Another long and boozy lunch ensued and then a vineyard tour with Ivan. Ivan was very generous with his time but luckily he had to go to Madrid that night so we were able to have a quiet beer in the hotel and catch up on all the sleep we lost the next day. Some days the cards fall for you.

Don Quixote gets to La Mancha

An early start got us on the road from Medina past Madrid and into La Mancha. Don Quixote was home and in the famous old town of Noblejas to meet with the charming Bienvenido Muñoz Pollo, who heads up the family winery Bodegas Muñoz. This is one of the cheapest regions in Spain ( and Europe ) to make wines and in the right hands can produce some great value wines that punch well above their weight.

La Mancha at last

La Mancha at last

For those of you who want to test the theory, I’m glad to say that the wines are here already and start around the €10 mark. As I type we have some open in the shop. Do call in to say Hola and try these great little wines. If its value you are after, then our final destination offers that and a bit of style to boot.

Valencia in the rain

Some of you will already be familiar with our Valencian wines from Bodegas Antonio Arráez. We arrived into the vineyard about an hour outside of Valencia city and another long boozy lunch with a fantastic indoor barbeque. This was an old style roadhouse restaurant and it stays open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It was a very cool spot and the T-bone steaks were beyond huge.

A BBQ in Valencia

A BBQ in Valencia

We went on to the winery, which holds a fascinating story. Toni is in his early 30s and has transferred the family business from a bulk wine operation into something modern, young and marketable. The wines are great too and have been huge hits for us since we starting bringing them in last year. The very cheap price and ease of drinkability helps immensely.

Families in old villages around Valencia and Rioja traditionally would have made their own wine in every house. In Arraez, they have transformed the old wine vats and cellars into a museum and social setting. You can book it for groups and spend a night in a wine vat. I wonder if Bulmers could do something similar? Anyway, after the tour we were due to spend our last night in Valencia, 1 hour away. A nice big motorway to take us there.

Great in theory but the drive was among the worst I have every experienced. The rain that fell was biblical and with 3 and 4 lanes of speeding traffic it was hit and miss for a while. We couldn’t see more than a foot in front of us and all the trucks we never saw during the week suddenly came out to play. The speed we were forced into was criminal and I was very glad not to be driving but being a passenger was hairy enough. We passed 3 accidents on the way to central Valencia and boy were we happy to find our hotel.

A Valencia tapas night with Octopus and other exotic foods ended the social side of our trip. There was a lot of business and it just so happened that a lot of it was socially structured. Don’t blame me – blame the Spanish and their sensible approach to life.

A whole lot of kilometres

A whole lot of kilometres

A Long Road

A long drive the next day to Barcelona airport brought us full circle on our 2,200km Don Quixote wine adventure. A bumpy flight to Cork and a tired drive back to Clonmel brought a very fruitful trip through the wine regions of Spain to an end. Some of the wines are already here and there are more to come. I would encourage you to try Spanish wines as it offers diversity, quality but also great value for money. Don Quixote has left the building.

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“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Don Quixote reincarnated – A Spanish Odyssey Part 1

May 3rd, 2013

A great work of literature is a wonderful thing, and always a pleasure when you get to visit where one was set, or to possibly re-enact it, in as much as modern life allows. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra wrote about Alonso Quijano and his fantasied alter ego Don Quixote, the wandering knight.


Last week I became Don Quixote and with a fellow wine importer in tow to play the part of Sancho Panza ( Don Quixote’s travel companion ), we flew into Barcelona to do a 2,200KM wine trip through Spain. We would end up in La Mancha but not quite yet. This article will be in two parts and will document a journey through cold, sunny and rainy Spain.

Our flight from Cork landed on Sunday into Barcelona airport and the Spanish equivalent of Sky Sports messed up our plans to watch Barcelona play football that night ( the game was moved ). So we drove directly from the airport in our rented Volkswagon and with the aid of our trusty GPS ( who is called Margaret ) towards Pamplona, the city of the bulls.

Pamplona is Basque country and is also in the region called Navarra. It is a busy stop for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. For those not in the know, this is the way of St James, an ancient pilgrimage from France to Compostela on the West coast of Northern Spain. Pamplona is also known for the running of the bulls and was made famous by another well known literary figure, Ernest Hemingway.

Hemingway's Hotel Pamplona

Hemingway's Hotel Pamplona

When we eventually reached Pamplona and our hotel, we raced the sunset in order to try get a beer in the famous Plaza del Castillo. It was a race well run, but the sun beat us and we instead found ourselves inside Café Iruña, made famous in Hemingway’s first big book, “The Sun Also Rises”. Now, with the well-earned cold beer in hand after the four-hour drive, the series subject of tomorrow’s journey could be discussed.

Where Ernest had a tipple

Where Ernest had a tipple

I won’t bore you with tales of a very strange Tapas ( or Pintxos ) bar we ate in. Suffice to say we had to eat our starters on one table and our main courses at another. The waiter was as confused as we were but the average wine quenched our thirst and we suffered on for our art.

The next morning we headed into the countryside, for you do not find too many vines in big towns and cities. The Navarra wine region lies between Rioja and the French border to the northeast. The foothills of the Pyrenees descend towards Navarra from the north and the Ebro River runs up from the south into Rioja to the west. The region can be broken into 5 different wine locations, Valdizarba, Tierra Estella and Baja Montana to the north. Ribera Alta in the middle and Ribera Baja in the south.

A Bodegas in Navarra

A Bodegas in Navarra

One of our most popular wines comes from Navarra, Pago de Cirsus. It is from the Ribera Baja in the south. We were rummaging around in the north west and came across a couple of great estates. I can’t say too much now as they may be following my blog ( illusions of grandeur ) and my bargaining position would not be strengthened by then knowing I was interested. It’s a bit like being a teenager again. “Does she like me?” “Yes, she does”. “But does she Like Like me?”

We also came across a wine fountain in Navarra. It is beside a very famous monastery in Ayegui on the Camino. Right beside the path that the pilgrims walk is a fountain that has two taps. One serves wine and one serves water. It is free to pilgrims and we were told that in high season, they go through 3,000 litres of wine a month, which is 4,000 bottles or nearly 7 pallets of wine. So if you find yourself on The Way of St James, you know where to get a free drink.

The Wine Fountain on the Camino de Santiago

The Wine Fountain on the Camino de Santiago

We headed south to Pago de Cirsus and saw their spectacular castle ( man made by the film producer owner ). It is all part of a luxury hotel complex nestled among the vines. Its kind of in the middle of nowhere and boasts a very well regarded restaurant which we had to refuse lunch in (Sancho Panza has not forgiven me yet ). The fancy digs kind of goes against the price point of the wines which are definitely among the best value wines we sell.


Onwards and westwards we went, towards the medieval village of Lagardia in the Rioja Alavesa. There are three regions in Rioja, Alta, Baja and Alavesa. All have very different characteristics and Alavesa is widely believed to be the best, but some of the winemakers argued that the best region is where Alavesa borders the Alta.

Such is the importance of Rioja in the wine selling world that we were scheduled for two nights here and we had meetings set up with existing and potential new suppliers. One of these new winemakers ( who we have been courting for a while ) told is the best French wine is made in Rioja. This refers to the fact that is was the French who came here after phylloxera had wiped out the majority of French vines in the middle of the 19th century.


The wine business was of course well established in Rioja, but the French introduced oak which is a big component of Rioja wines today. The classical definition talks about Joven, Roble, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva wines. These are all determined by how much time the spend in oak and also how much time they spend in bottle before being released. The more oak, the more money in general terms, but Gran Reservas are in many cases over oaked, in my opinion.

What is interesting to see is that many of the new generation like to experiment outside the official rules, and thus making much more interesting wines. A French wine maker called Tom Puyaubert is one who is very experimental. He make the Exopto wines that we have been selling for about six months. I love when winemakers experiment. It makes for much more interesting wines.

The black teeth in a Rioja sunset

The black teeth in a Rioja sunset

While this has been a whirlwind tour of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza’s wine adventure, I will continue in Part 2 and recant tales of a crazy winemaker in Rioja, a hilltop sunset vineyard picnic, a list wallet and phone as well as a very scary drive into Valencia in the worst rain I have ever seen. Hasta Luego Amigos.

Back in the Saddle again – the return of the Articles

April 5th, 2013

“It’s been a long time since Rock’n’Roll” – Sing that in a high pitched voice and insert a Jimmy Page guitar riff and you have a classic Led Zeppelin song. While I have in fact recently listened to some Rock’n’Roll on my new turntable ( Christmas present ), I am referring to the fact that it has been a long time since I presented an article for your delectable critique.

The post budget blues

You may have thought I have been curled up in a ball in a dark room rocking to and fro in shock from the 41% excise duty increase in December. Tempting as that solution might be, I decided to focus on improving on the great gains we made in 2012. Onwards and upwards and the search for newer wines is in full flight. As I write this three new wines arrived into the shop today, and there are loads more on the horizon.

I have been very busy looking at every wine we currently stock and seeing if it has a future or not. There are many criteria needed for a wine to stay in the Red Nose family and many will not survive but the good news is that makes room for more wines. These are strange times we live in and when you are asking people to part with money, you really have to consistently over deliver on the quality and value offering.

With that in mind, this last month saw us throw out the old to make way for the new. Our Pick-A-Dot Sale cleared out a lot of wines at up to 50% off and this allows room for the newer wines that have been exciting us to shine. There is still a little bit left, but not a lot. To make up for it, we have introduced a new mix case for €50 that is proving very popular.

WIne courses and dinners

Last October we held our first wine course and it was a huge success. After 5 weeks of tasting, swirling, spitting, swallowing and listening to me waffle on about wines, we held our last night in the StoneHouse restaurant’s private dining room and matched their fantastic tasting menu to some great wines.

The good news is that we are currently finalizing plans for another wine course. This time we are looking at a few different options. We plan to repeat the classic 5 week course on a Thursday night but we are also looking at a slimmed down ½ day version, more than likely at the weekend. Depending on interest, we have also investigated the possibility of some Magical Mystery Tours. This basically means a mini bus, a foodie destination with lots of wine to match. You do the drinking, we organize the driving.

If any of you are interested in Top End Bordeaux wines, you might want to get in contact with me. I have been offered some seriously good value on some of the very best wines in the world. I am talking about the top end wines for putting down, but at a fraction of the normal price. We are still talking about €30 a bottle and a minimum case purchase. Contact me directly at if you want more details.

Smelling Swooshing and Spitting

A wine merchants calendar after the busy period that was Christmas is busier than you would think. Its not all accounts and stocktaking though. Traditionally this time of year we get invited to all manner of tastings. Last week I took the train to Dublin and was let loose on 256 wines from an importer I work with. Smell, Look, swish, inhale and spit. And so it went – whites first and then another lap of the hall to get the reds in. Experience has taught me to leave those big Barolos until the end. One is almost tempted to forget to spit those wines.

At this stage we import over 90% of our wines directly from small, large and in-between vineyards from all over the world, so the Irish trade tastings are not going to get you those real value driven wines or those little magical small vineyards that make this job so special. The do however serve a purpose and some of our favourite Italian wines ( such as Allegrini ) come via this route.

Later this month I am flying to Germany for the best Wine Trade show in Europe – ProWein. This will have vineyards from all over the world showing off their wares in 8 massive halls in the vast and very impressive Dusseldorf Messe convention centre.

Ireland really missed a trick not building one of these during the boom years. The Germans may not know much about debt relief but they sure know how to organize a trade fair. I’ve been to shows in France, Italy and London and this is by far the best. Hopefully, I’ll be writing about the wines I found soon

Are there Horses in Spain?

I think that Spain will become more and more important in the Irish wine world. It still has loads of great value regions that are unknown and very well priced. The punters in Cheltenham always look for value and sometimes a great Bordeaux at €30 can be great value and a €9 special offer wine is a waste of money. It is all about perspective. But I think regions like Navarra and Valencia offer true value when compared to Rioja and Ribero and we hope to find more at ProWein.

By the time this article goes to press, Cheltenham will be over and I’ll know how much value I managed to squeeze from the Tipsters draw in Careys and Dalys. In my experience value and Cheltenham do not go hand in hand. However I still smile when I remember shouting War of Attrition home in the Gold Cup. I met Mouse Morris about 6 months before and he said he thought the horse was a superstar. My little ante post wager came in at very nice odds. Let’s hope my trip to ProWein brings home a few winners as well.

As always, there is more information on 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 href=””>

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Valencia – a hidden Spanish gem

May 25th, 2012

We are delighted and excited to introduce our new range of Valencia wines, from the very exciting Bodegas Arraez vineyard.

The wines of Bodegas Arraez

Bodegas Arraez is a family winery with a long tradition. The winery was founded in 1916 by some winemakers and bought it later in 1950 by Antonio Arraez. Then he began to develop his own wines becoming to be one of the leaders in the region selling bulk and bottled wines from the Denominación de Origen Valencia. The winery is located in the town of Fuente de la Higuera with special climate and terroir. The have 35 Hec. of vineyards with indigenous grapes like, Monastrell, Tempranillo, Garnacha Tintorera, Macabeo and Muscat and other foreign grapes as Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.

The next generation

Currently the company is in the third generation managed by Toni Arraez which is a young wine maker who has being elaborating wines in Ribera del Duero for some years and he has taken the winery to a further step beginning to build a new style of Spanish wines which have had a great success during this two last years in the national market.

Bang for your buck

What we like ( and we think our customers will like ) is that these wines are very well made with no expense spared. They are also incredibly well made for the price. If this was Rioja a wine like Eduardo Bermejo could easily be selling closer to €20, but we think it offers fantastic bang for your buck at €11.99.

Even the ‘cheaper’ range, Casas de Herencia get light oaking and this is unheard of at €8.99. Let me introduce the range and please call in, as we have some open now and will open more as the infiltrate the Irish market.

Casas de Herencia

Casas de Herencia The so called entry level wines offer great value and easy drinking – The red is a great mix of Monastrell, Tempranillo and Grenache. The wine is is garnet in color and has an intense aroma of red fruit such as blackcurrant. Lots of upfront fruit and a long velvety finish. The wines spend 4 months in oak, which is very rare at this price point.

The white has a lovely nose of white flowers with peach and honeysuckle. It is crisp and wonderfully balanced and bursting with melon, mango and ripe peaches.


Eduardo Bermejo
These wines are names after a well known Valencian painter. The red is a brilliant red colour layer which identifies its freshness. On the nose it is very fruit-bearing, with intense connotations of red fruits as raspberry and well integrated oak notes. ( 4 months in American oak ).

The white is palid yellow colour with greenish tones that demonstrates its predominant variety , Verdejo. On the nose it is very clean and floral with great intensity. On the palate it turns out to be fresh, and elegant, with well balanced acidity that fills the palate.


Guilty Pleasures

We also have a few guilty pleasures, small quantites of a wine called Mala Vida and a Monastrell ‘Author’ wine called A2. Mala Vida means the bad (in a good way ) life, or the Italians might say, La Dolce Vita. It is a blend of Monastrell, Cabernet, Grenache and Shyrah and 8 months in American oak. It has a dark red colour, full with a rich aroma. Red fresh fruits flavours and well integrated oak that doesn´t hide its fruity savory nature. Only €12.99 but it tastes a lot more expensive.

The A2 Monastrell is a serious wine and made in tiny quantities. Dense purple colour, the fruit flavors like black currant and cherry are dominant, but perfected emblessed with balsamic and mineral notes typical of the variety Monastrell. The primary tastes is sweetness with agradables tannins. It should be noted the perfect balance of fruit and the toasted of the oak.

Wines of the Week – Rioja and French Sauvignon

September 17th, 2011

We have 2 new wines of the week. One of our big favourites, a very approachable Rioja called Pago Malarina is down from €10.99 to €8.99. The wine has a bright cherry red colour with purple hues. On the nose, it is youthful, clean, open with predominant aromas of fresh juicy fruit, especially red berries. A touch of vanilla is evident from time in oak. On the palate the wine is full, revealing fine balance. The finish is rich and long with great persistence.

The white is a French Sauvignon called Grandiose, which is quite exotic on the nose, almost New Zealand in style, this Gascogone Sauvignon is fresh and crisp with a great acidity. A great value alternative to the classic Loire Valley alternative.


Article – Viva L-Espagna

April 19th, 2010

I sat down yesterday to write this article, but I could not. The reason is golf, or to be more accurate, the Careys Golf Society trip to Mount Juliet. As I sat at my desk on Saturday, the day after the trip, I stared blankly at the screen and waited for the words to pour out. Unfortunately I could not hear them for the pounding in my head and the strange noises echoing in my stomach. Arthur Guinness, you are no friend of mine. It’s been a long time since I had a hangover ( good wine gives you strength ), but this one was a humdinger, or as Bob Dylan might say, a folksinger. All I could manage was a lazy blog entry with photos from the day and a very funny video of Robin Williams describing how the Scots invented golf. Have a look at if you are bored enough to hear about my great birdie on the 10th. Much thanks to Mr. O Flaherty for his very accurate club choice. Anyway, onto the wine.

To be honest, I am still trying to figure out what to write about as I type this. The inspiration will arrive any minute now. Hear it comes, and we will talk about…Spain. Where did this choice come from? At some stage in the post golf celebrations in Careys, my brother in law Kevin showed me a photograph of himself and tennis superstar Raphael Nadal on his phone. He met him in the Chicago airport on a recent business trip. I am glad to confirm that by all accounts he was a gentleman and very happy to chat. It’s nice when famous people are friendly. To add to the Hello magazine moment, on the connecting flight from London to Cork, Denis Leamy sat down beside him and they talked rugby all the way home. I doubt they discussed Spanish wine, but I will make amends for them both. I work with a great Spanish importer who has much of the same beliefs as I do for quality winemaking. You won’t see the big brand wines on show with Raphael and Alvaro ( they are Spanish themselves ), but you will see the superstar winemakers that are lauded in Spain and all over the world. Their stable, and consequently mine, include Telmo Rodriguez, Alvaro Palacios, Emilio Moro and Martin Codex, among others. Pick up a wine magazine or browse any website on Spanish wine and these names are regularly featured.

Kevin & Nadal

Kevin & Nadal

For many of us, myself included for a long time, when someone mentioned Spanish wine, we thought of Rioja. This rich, oaky wine made from the Tempranillo grape has long been an Irish favourite. My wife raved about it as a student when she trekked through northern Spain on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, the ancient pilgrim walk in the footsteps of Saint James. They would arrive onto small villages and less than a euro would buy them a jug of local heaven. These wines rarely leave their village and it is big brands that definitely lead the way in the market place. However, I would always think you need to be conscious of the price quality ratio with Rioja. Just as with Cotes du Rhone, there is a lot of rubbish out there. There are different types of Rioja, depending on your penchant for oak. Classic or basic Rioja will have less than a year in oak. Crianza will have at least 2 years ageing, 12 months of this in oak. Reserva should have 3 years ageing, and again at least 1 year in oak. The Grand Reserva wines have 2 years in oak. The more the oak, in general the more power you need to tame. Decanting is a must for the longer wines, and that rich chocolate style is most pronounced, albeit after several hours open, in these monsters. You really need food with the bigger wines and decanting is a necessity. There are some modern winemakers, Telmo Rodriguez included, who are abandoning the traditional rules and classifying complex and serious wines as basic Rioja, allowing them to do what they want and in terms of oaking. His Lanzaga wine, which has long been popular in Red Nose Wine, is a perfect example of this. This is very complex and beats most Grand Reserva wines on the quality front, but is only classified as a basic Rioja. There has been some movement to bring the Reserva wines down to affordable levels, and we were delighted to come across the very drinkable Baron de Ley Reserva for only 16.50 Euros. This is an absolute steal for a wine of such quality, and it has awards coming out of its proverbial cork.

Kevin & Denis Leamy

Kevin & Denis Leamy and some strange hypnotic woman in the seat behind

There are other regions and grape varieties in Spain other than Rioja and its famous grape, Tempranillo. Among them are the gorgeous whites made from the exciting Albarino, as well as Tempranillo’s other famous wine, Ribera del Duero. Emilio Moro is one the true superstars here. However, arguably the most exciting region lies above Barcelona in an area called Priorat. Alvaro Palacios has almost singularly handed created an icon wine from an unheralded area. Much like Áime Guibert did with Mas de Daumas Gassac all those years ago, Mr. Palacios has created a wine that is heralded all over the world, yet comes from a region not historically regarded for fine wine.

His icon wine is called L’Ermita and sells for serious money – I am too embarrassed to even write down the price. I stock his second wine, Les Terrasses and it recently won the award for the best Spanish red wine in Ireland. This is a serious wine. I had the great ‘pleasure’ of dropping a case of it a few months back. There were only 2 bottles broken, but considering that it is a wine that is actually hard to get an allocation of, this was a big deal. I was not impressed with my butter fingers.

As with all great wine regions, there are wines for everyone, and at all prices. As well as all of these icon wines, you can really get great wines for great prices in Spain. There is value to be had under 10 Euros and there is even better value at that 11-15 euro mark. There are really top wines with lots of forward fruit and easy drinking elegance. I have been talking with Alvaro about doing a proper Spanish wine tasting and once we have the much heralded Gassac tasting out of the way, we will put plans in place. Watch this space. By the way, the title for the article came from my first family holiday abroad. My father brought us on a JWT package holiday to Torremolinos on the Costa de Sol. It was one of those self catering apartment complexes by the beach. You had the battle the Germans for the best poolside sun bed each morning – I know it’s a cliché but it was true. Every night there would be some cabaret and we could hear the music as the bar terrace was directly under our room. This was great fun the first night, but we soon realised that the music went on until about 2.30am every night. The last song was always “Viva L’Espagna” and how we cheered when it finally came on, bleary eyed and exhausted. I have no doubt Spanish holidays have evolved and there is no doubt Spanish wine has. I still hate the song though.

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 Apr 15 2010