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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.

The ‘Social’ Media Wine Blitz

June 5th, 2012

The bank holiday weekend say a media blitz from Red Nose Wine. We were featured in no less than 4 national media outlets. The Irish Times, RTE Radio 1, RTE News website and RTE1 Television.

The Irish Times piece was all about our Chateau Bauduc Rose and the link can be found here.

Bauduc Rose Irish Times June 2012

Radio 1 – Morning Ireland

We were on the early slot with Radio 1 and the theme was Social Media in Business. You can listen to it here. The “Twitter veteran” comes in at 3.17m.

RTE Website piece

The full piece is here but Red Nose Wine gets a nice mention

“One month after Ireland was officially declared in recession, Gary Gubbins opened his business, Red Nose Wine, in Clonmel Co Tipperary. Despite what was arguably poor timing, Gubbins’ business is still growing and he says its thanks in no small part to social media.

He attributes his wines appearing on wine lists in Ballymaloe House and the Michelin starred Cliff House Hotel to building connections on Twitter. Similarly, he says social networking helped him to find better ways of doing business.
“I’ve forged some really good relationships. I import a lot of wines together with others, including Curious wines in Cork, Cases in Galway, and Simply in Dublin and all of that came about through Twitter.”

Gubbins blogs, tweets and posts on Facebook in order to further his business connections. Many other businesses are doing the same, and hundreds more want to learn how”

Coming up on Nationwide ...

Coming up on Nationwide ...

RTE Nationwide

I wonder how many of the average 500,000 Nationwide viewers were watching? Hopefully some of them will give us a call online or in person. I will try to get a cut of the actual segment but for the moment the whole show is on RTE Player. The social media bit starts at 12m and Red Nose Wine come in at 17m. The link is here.

Postcards from the Edge

February 14th, 2012

and by the edge, I mean the Cliff Edge, and by the Cliff, I mean the Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore, Co. Waterford.

I have three small children and while this brings great joy to my life, it also takes it over on many an occasion. My youngest was born last September and she was 10 weeks early so we spent 52 stressful days in hospital with her. During this emotional haze, myself and my wife promised each other when we get through this, we would go away to the Cliff House Hotel and have the famous tasting menu. This is what makes us happy and if Sarah’s great journey wasn’t a good enough reason, then nothing would be. Christmas presents were made easy this year.

Red Nose Wine supplies a very famous wine into the Cliff House Hotel, Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc, and it has pride of place on the famous tasting menu.

I won’t bore you with stories of the infinty pool, the outdoor jacuzzi, the sauna or the sound of the sea and the upgraded room and the complimentary champagne on arrival, but let’s just say it took about five minutes to relax. I was at the Ryder Cup in the K Club and was blown away with the standards set there for organization but also seamless way everything just worked. The Cliff House is like that. Everything just works…

I should say that the aforementioned baby was with us. The others were farmed out to doting grandparents but we weren’t quite ready to take our eye off of her.

This is a run through of one of the most amazing food experiences that I have ever had. I am not qualified to say exactly how good a chef Martijn Kajuiter is, but as a lover of food, this was an incredible assault on the senses. The flavour, textures and imagination with the wide array of dishes was mesmirising. I remember working as a waiter in a Michelin starred resteraunt on the French Riviera many years ago, and my biggest panic was always learning the contents of the Amuse Bouche (in French and English ) every night. This is the little tingler for the taste buds that you get ‘before’ the starter. The translation is “mouth amuser”. Here is what we got …


The bread including Smoked Glenilen Butter, Irish Walnuts and Seasalt.

The bread including Smoked Glenilen Butter, Irish Walnuts and Seasalt.

This was just an assault on the senses - scallops, sea spinach, pork, irish caviar, quail Egg, veal, poke Gras and much more

This was just an assault on the senses - scallops, sea spinach, pork, irish caviar, quail Egg, veal, foie Gras and much more

The wine to match this dish was Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc and it was a wonderful accompaniment to the many different dishes in front of us. A tip of the hat to Anke, the excellent sommelier in the Cliff House.

Fish by the Sea ... Helvick Cod with brown shrimps, Marsh Saphire and Butter Jus

Fish by the Sea ... Helvick Cod with brown shrimps, Marsh Saphire and Butter Jus

to clean the palate ...

to clean the palate ...

Herbs from the garden make a great sauce ....

Herbs from the garden make a great sauce ....

... and Skeaghanore Duck with rhubarb, black olive, Thyme and white chocolate suits the sauce perfectly

... and Skeaghanore Duck with rhubarb, black olive, Thyme and white chocolate suits it perfectly

and so the deserts began to arrive ...

and so the deserts began to arrive ...



and then it was over ...

and then it was over ...

The wine matching menu was very well done and added to the whole experience. The English Pinot Gris was a real treat with the Cod. I even got a glass of Sake with the salmon dish ( I never took a picture of that dish )

The Wines

The Wines

While we savored this truly wonderful meal, our baby Sarah had it to look forward to the next morning. The joys of breastfeeding. I will say that it did not affect her appetite but it did do strange things to the the nappies. My wife wasn’t drinking so at least Sarah didn’t have to worry about those side effects.

To close I will show the view from the room and possibly the best room in the hotel… I cannot recommend this enough – its a true touch of magic on our doorsteps and very well worth the trip, whether you are weather beaten parents in need of a night away, or lovers of all things food.

The view from the room

The view from the room

The best room in the house ?

The best room in the house ?

#inishfood – Journeys End

March 21st, 2011

With about 4 hours sleep; I awoke on Saturday morning after the Odyssey of the previous day’s trip and the late night hospitality of the Lake of Shadows resident bar resting upon my shoulders. I felt less like the Greek poet Homer who charted Hercules long voyage from Troy, but more like that other Homer, of Springfield fame.

The breakfast room was abuzz with all manner of foodie debate as @pat_whelan and Mag Kirwan of @goatsbridge fame cut to the heart of the Irish food industry. It was not a conversation for a man who had only hours before heard the sirens song and crashed among the rocks that were the Drift Inn and the hotel resident’s bar. I ate my rashers, sausages and eggs and drank my coffee in silence. Incidentally, the breakfast at the Lake of Shadows Hotel is very good.

Coffee & Pigs

We arrived at Harrys Bar & Restaurant after the coffee demo ( which I had really wanted to see ) and just in time to see some pig carcases on display. Luckily there was still coffee a plenty and Ross from Bailies Hand Roasted Coffee and Juan from Coffee Angel sorted out by coffee cravings, and I thawed out about 11 o clock. Tipperary Pork hero TJ Crowe joined Ed Hick, Jack McCarthy and a dead pig on stage and brought us through the process of getting the animal to the table.

This little Piggy went to the market

This little Piggy went to the market

It was a joy to see craft butchery at its best and the bloody excess of Ed’s black pudding demo was the icing on the cake.

Ed Hick's bloody hands

Ed Hick's bloody hands

I recently found a Spanish wine with a Pig on the label and I dropped it down to TJ during his demo. He seemed happy with the present.


I spotted Pat Whelan giving one of his passionate interviews to Ella McSweeney and promptly took a photo and tweeted it. Never let a #tippfood promotional moment get away.


The Media were delightful

I had tweeted with Ella but never actually met her. Being involved with the Tipperary Food Producers, she had really helped our profile when she visited Crowes Farm and covered our Food Extravaganza last November. I was one of the members the crew chose not to interview on the evening, but I was determined not to dwell on that.

As the day progressed, I got talking to Ella and tried to embarrass her by getting a photo to show to my uncle, who is a dairy farmer in Tipperary. Ella is very well regarded by the dairy farmers of Tipperary. My advice would be for her to never visit there alone. There would be all manner of road frontage offered and quotas would be bandied about with gusto. The fact that she was so nice and down to earth was great. We talked about GIY, the Food Connect program run by the Tipperary Food Producers and also about our plans to hold a Salon du Blog as part of the Totally Tipperary festival planned for Cloughjordan in late June. I hope she can make it down, and I will keep the dairy farmers away.

Ella McSweeney gets to meet Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine

Ella McSweeney gets to meet Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine

The Food Bloggers of Ireland

It was great to meet so many passionate people that you come across online and in print on a regular basis. Sally McKenna was just lovely and the support that the Bridgestone Guides give to the local food ( and wine ) businesses is invaluable.

Food Heros from Donegal to Cork to Tipperary

Food Heros from Donegal to Cork to Tipperary

I had long been an admirer of Imen McDonnell’s very stylish blog “I Married an Irish Farmer” so it was great to meet her in person. I would love to say that I watched the butter making demo intensely, but last night’s exploits were catching up and a cure was needed. We snuck out the bar for a quick minute
I should state that I did watch #butterlive a few days later online.

Where everybody knows your name

Where everybody knows your name

Tipps best butchers enjoy a laugh

Tipps best butchers enjoy a laugh

The mood in Harrys on the day was electric with lots of interaction between everyone

Sleep & Rugby

Sleep was catching up on us and a Rugby match was looming at 5, so I slipped away and made my way back to the hotel and the bed that I was dreaming of. A bad rugby result was not an ideal aperitif for what was to come but the bus took us back to Harrys for the main event, the Inishfood no menu feast.

There are better food bloggers than me that can better describe the banquet that Donal and Ray put before us, and I would suggest you check Kristin and Caroline’s Irish Food Bloggers roundup of blogs to get a real flavour of all that was on offer.



My highlights included the pork in all its guises ( obviously ), but the fish dishes were so fresh, and the langoustines and the Pollack were just superb. Donal was generous enough to include one of my favourite wines as part of the banquet. I think that everyone enjoyed Les Obriers de la Péira and the people who make it adhere to very similar principles to Donal and his team at Harrys.

Bob Dylan and the Lotto

Pat Whelan started a Twitter rumour that I won the lotto and there were some very interesting tweets flying about for about an hour. The band played Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and I think there was even some Tom Waits. A great end to a great odyssey and Donal Doherty and his team deserve huge praise for pulling off such an epic event.

My only regret is I did not spend more time seeking out and talking to more people. I am a little shy in such exalted company but hopefully some or all of them will come to one of our Tipperary Food Producers events. Look out for #totallytipp and #tippfood hastags on Twitter. April’s Dungarvan food festival will see many of the faces make a reappearance so I hope to be braver and introduce myself to more when I venture across the mountains to beautiful West Waterford.

The Long way home

We won’t mention the navigation on the way back and ‘someone’ getting us lost and finding ourselves on the backstreets of Belfast and then in Armagh. It’s a good thing he makes good rashers. So, just as Odysseus did in ancient Greece, we tied ourselves to the foodie mast, and had our ears plugged up with beeswax so as to safely sail past the Sirens and their song and we arrived safely back in Tipperary. It’s getting late, and this blog has lasted way to long and I’m starting to ramble so until the next foodie journey.

The Twitterati & Bloggers Collaborate

November 23rd, 2010

This blogpost is a collaboration inspired by collaborators. Tipperary Food Producers produced an exciting event that showcased their work in Clonmel Park Hotel on Wednesday 10 November 2010.

A panel of social media users was specially invited to do their best – communicate with the wider world via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs – the new media… I wasn’t officially part of the Twitterati as I was an organiser and memeber of the Tipperary Food Producers. However being self employed instills one with the gift of multitasking, so I managed a few blogs in between pouring, tasting and talking.

Paul O Mahony pulled the Twitter Panel together in the aftermath of the night and they have all collaborated to publish this blogpost.

We hope you love it & the great work of the Tipperary Food Producers Network.

Pat Whelan, “James Whelan Butchers”  (@pat_whelan) says

A Taste of Good Food

For anyone interested in local food, the Clonmel Park Hotel was the place to be last Wednesday night for the Tipperary Food Producers Christmas Extravaganza.  It turned out to be a fun evening with things to taste, things to eat and plenty of artisan products to buy.

The food demonstration went really well with Bord Bia’s Sile Kelly rustling up tasty and quick family meals that anyone could conjure over Christmas without having to spend hours in the kitchen.  Bord Bia is very aware of the budgetary implications for everyone these days and so it was no surprise that all the dishes prepared were very economical.

Sarah Baker from Cloughjordan Cookery School was a huge hit when she prepared a fantastic black pudding and bacon salad that could be used as a starter or a main course.  Obviously all the ingredients were local; Inch House black pudding and Crowe’s farm bacon.

For me one of the highlights of the evening was the presence of Jane Boyce, Master of Wine.

Thanks to Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine there was huge added value to the evening as Jane matched each dish prepared with an appropriate wine.  She gave tips and hints and all in a very accessible and down to earth way particularly for the not so experienced.  A very warm and unassuming lady from County Down, Jane blended in seamlessly to the line up at the Clonmel Park.   She is highly experienced and her work with wine has taken her all over the world.  These days she has the luxury of working as an independent Wine Consultant and freelance wine writer.  There are only four qualified wine masters in the whole of Ireland and Jane is the only female to boot.  Her experience as a wine judge is wide ranging. She has been key judge and adjudicator for the Irish Wine Show for the past two years and last year was on the Burgundy and Austrian panels for London’s The Decanter World Wine Awards. Her international judging experience spans the globe including South Africa, France and as far away as Australia.  One of the most basic tips for food matching she gave on the night, and one which makes a great deal of sense, is to initially match the country of origin of the dish to the wine.  For example if you are having Italian food then an Italian wine might be a good choice.  Equally if it is a warming winter dish then it naturally goes better with a full bodied wine rather than a light crisp summery one.  Jane was also keen to point out the difference between cost and value.  She made the good point that by staying with the smaller vineyards and spending just a few euro more you are exponentially increasing the quality of wine you are buying when you take into account the duty, the bottling and transportation costs.

Whether you were at the event or not, Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine in Clonmel would be very helpful if you need advice.

All the canapés on the evening were prepared using Tipperary Food.  There was a feast of treats created with imagination and the producers acted as waiters for the night.  It was lovely to hear people chatting to the people who actually created the food; a rare thing these days to be that close to the source.  Indeed, some of the people at the event had travelled further than much of the food.  The idea was to show just what you could do for impressive nibbles over the festive season.

I was sure I would have a favourite but as I tasted each one I chopped and changed my hit list as the various flavours danced along my taste buds.  I was in heaven as the smoky taste of Crowe’s Bacon was matched with Daru Cheddar from Cooleeney Cheese to create a little quiche tartlet.  Then I compared it to the Cashel blue cheese and red onion tartlets and couldn’t quite make up my mind.  Una O’Dwyer’s cold sausage on savoury crackers with Crossogue relish was a heady, sticky revelation.  There were bruschetta selections using roasted peppers, chargrilled courgettes, cheese selections and chargrilled mushrooms creating a wonderful synergy between Munster Mushrooms, Hickey’s Bakery and Cooleeney Cheese.   O’Briens Farm Shop teamed up with Inch House and together came up with potato rosti topped with horseradish mayo and black pudding; sublime.

For my contribution I used a fillet of medium rare beef on little blinis with rocket and shaved parmesan which I considered to be quite the triumph until I swallowed the delectable delights of Mags Bergin’s brown bread simply topped with my chicken liver pate and Crossogue sweet red pepper relish.  It was like looking at a family of children and having to choose just one.

In the end I gave up and decided that they all had something to offer and while I loved individual characteristics, I had equal affection for all.

Thankfully the canapés took the edge off my hunger before the demonstration began and then it was back for dessert and coffee.

If the tastes from the canapés were exciting the climax came with dessert; tiramisu shots made with Ponaire Coffee and mascarpone cheese from the Tipperary cheese company and Karmine apple jelly shots with fresh raspberries.  The Apple Farm provided the ingredients for Pear and almond tarts along with hopping into bed with the Cookie Jar for Panna cotta, strawberries and chocolate chip cookies.  Had I died after a Cookie Jar confection on Wednesday night I would have died a happy man!  The Lemon curd and meringue tartlets were a huge hit and the Brownies from the Cookie Jar, topped with a blueberry curd were outstanding.  Crossogue preserves are standing tall these days.

Looking at all the stands and all the people who supported the event it made me really proud to be from Tipperary.

We have fantastic producers doing a brilliant job but we also have some really loyal customers who, at the end of the day, are the reason we do it.

Finally the icing on the cake for me came with a delightful footnote from Bord Bia’s Sile Kelly.  Just fresh from the highly regarded Listowel Food Fest, to my delight Sile announced that my book, “An Irish Butcher Shop, had won second prize at the event for food writing.  I was absolutely thrilled and even more delighted when I found out that I was only beaten by Darina Allen’s latest offering “Forgotten Food“.  To be in the company of such esteemed cook book royalty makes for a very nice feeling indeed.   All in all it was a great Tipperary food week. I welcome your feedback to


Yvonne Carty, Hey Pesto,  (@heypestoie)says…

Twitter Power!

I may have been labelled a ’social media whore’ by certain people, but I will admit that while I wholeheartedly embrace Facebook I lingered in the ‘tweetlight’ for a long time. But no longer. I am now a fully paid member of the Twitter community – I have made new friends; sourced suppliers: attended ‘twinnerparties’: participated in cookalongs and even lost weight on a ‘twiet’!

And all this must not have gone unnoticed as recently I was invited to take part in Ireland’s first Food Twitter Panel by the powerhouse that is Pat Whelan.

Hence on a wet and windy wednesday night in November instead of curling up in front of the fire I made my way to the Clonmel Park Hotel to meet my fellow twitterers. Our task – to tell the world about the amazing Tipperary Food Producers Extravaganza. Our assigned minder, Robert Harris, led us into a small, secret room behind the bar for coffee and sandwiches(I wanted to be in the foyer for the wine and mouth watering canapés!).

I was delighted to recognise two familiar faces – Caroline (@Bibliocook) and Mag (@goatsbridge) and to be introduced to the rest of the twitterati – Keith (@keithbohanna), Derry (@derryo),Susan (@queenofpots), Brian (@brianpcleary), Ken (@anygivenfood), Roger (@rogeroverall), Paul (@omaniblog), Michael (@clonmelinfo)

The panel

Once we had identified each other by our twitter names it was time to wander through the avenue of food to meet the producers including Inch House Black Pudding, Crowe’s Farm, Cooleeneey Cheese, The Scullery, The Cookie Jar, Crossogue Preserves and The Apple Farm…my apologies to anyone I haven’t listed.

Then Robert showed us to our table and we were off! You have never seen such frantic finger action – we told the twitterverse about Sheila Kelly’s beef chilli, Sarah Baker’s black pudding & bacon salad, Alistair’s choice of meat cut, Jane Boyce’s wine choice, Nichola Beresford’s entertaining ‘MC-ing’ and Pat Whelan’s empassioned pleas to support local food producers…… Phew!

I should mention there was competition between the iPhones and notebooks but I think iPad envy took over in the end (Dear Santa….)

Oh and I also learned about Audioboo – to be further investigated

Tweeting away

We were matched in our efforts by the TY students on #foodconnect program who are spending time with the various producers learning where and how the food is produced.

And then all of a sudden it was over! 400 people came to the event and between the panel I imagine at least 4,000 attended it virtually.

My only complaint – I never got to see, never mind taste, the dessert canapés!

If you haven’t entered the Twitterverse – do


Keith Bohanna of says

I love artisan food producers and am very happy to share that passion with anyone who will listen over on On my recent outing to the brilliant night organised by Tipperary Food Producers I decided to take a back seat and (for my first time) shoot some short video interviews with a couple of the producers and with Gary Gubbins, one of the active members of the group.

Thanks to each of them for being so facilitating.

Video 1 – Michael Cantwell Boulaban Farm Icecream.

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Video 2 – Jim Maher Cooleeney Cheese

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Video 3 – Sarah Browne, Browne’s Soup

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Video 4 – Gary Gubbins Tipperary Food Producers

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Caroline, Bibliocook: All About Food says …

Local food: Tipperary Food Producers

It was all about buying local at last night’s Tipperary Food Producers Cookery Extravaganza in Clonmel. Tipperary produce – local cheese, preserves, meat and fruit – was used for the elegant nibbles on offer at the start of the night, during the cookery demonstrations and for the rapidly hoovered up deserts which finished off the evening.

I was there as a member of the 11-strong Twitter panel, along with @goatsbridge, @HeyPestoie, @KeithBohanna, @Omaniblog, @RogerOverall, @BrianPCleary, @QueenofPots, @AnyGivenFood @ClonmelInfo and @DerryO.

We had a great time, down the back of the room with nothing to do but watch, listen and tweet (find us at #TippFood). Normally tweeting at the cottage is squeezed in between radio editing, article writing, pot stirring and toddler watching so it felt like a total luxury to have a couple of hours devoted to it, just me, my netbook, my fellow panel members (plus many iPhones!) and a 500-strong crowd of Tipperary food lovers.

For me, the best part of the night was a chance to chat with and buy from the Tipperary food producers that were showcasing their wares.

After all the demonstration and tweeting ended, I got a chance to pick up sausages from Crowe’s Farm, along with advice from John Paul on hanging and cooking my Bronze turkeys, a cute little box of Raspberry Streusel from The Cookie Jar, one of Nuala Hickey’s award-winning barm bracks now scenting the whole kitchen with fruit and spice, a chunk of the fantastic Inch House black pudding and a couple of cheeses from Cooleeney. I picked up Gortnamona, a soft goats’ cheese, to go with a tomorrow night’s warm lentil and roast pumpkin salad but couldn’t resist a wee Cooleeney, a Camembert-style cheese, for baking whole as a weekend treat.

Well done to the Tipperary Food Producers Network for putting such a great event together and thanks to Pat Whelan (check out his book here) at James Whelan Butchers for the invitation to participate.

Buy local? With food this good, the only question is why wouldn’t you


Gary Gubbins, RedNoseWines says…

Oh what a night!

What a night was had on November 10th in the Clonmel Park Hotel. Nearly 500 food ( and wine ) lovers descended on Tipperary in a great show of support for local food and local business. Myself and Con Traas of the Apple Farm could not pour the wine and juices quickly enough as the crowds were three deep at the bar.

Jane Boyce MW and Pat Whelan discuss wines to go with Pat's recipes. Jane Boyce MW and Pat Whelan discuss wines to go with Pat’s recipes. 

A Master of Wine

The whole night was a great success and I was delighted to have someone like Jane Boyce MW matching artisan wines to artisan food. There are only 4 Masters of Wine in Ireland so it was a real coup to be able to convince her to travel from the North. She has a real warmth when she speaks about wine and does not talk down to her audience. The comments I received about her were all very positive and a number of people want me to do a dedicated wine night with Jane in the future.


I remember being at a Tipperary Food Producers meeting last year and I tried to explain Twitter to the group and the power of social networking. I am not sure everyone took me too seriously but Pat Whelan was definitely listening and he now has double my number of followers. He had the great idea to invite a panel of Twitter folk ( Twitterati ) and bloggers to cover the event. They sat alongside the Transition Year students participating in the Food Connect program and the hashtag #tippfood was a buzzing as the night went on.

The Tipperary Food Producers were genuinely humbled by the support from the public and we hope to build and improve on this going forward. Thanks to the Bloggers and Twitterati for their hard work.


Susan Clooney writes…

Christmas Cookery Extravaganza

On the 10th of November last the Tipperary Food Producers’ Network, in association with An Bord Bia, provided an evening of artisan food displays, tastings and cookery demonstrations at the Clonmel Park Hotel.  I was lucky enough to receive an invitation to form a Twitter panel with several others on the evening, an offer I couldn’t resist having a genuine interest in local products, especially those of the edible variety.

The crowd that turned up on the evening, despite the bad weather, was phenomenal.  About 500 people gathered in the hotel lobby, shortly before the event commenced, where wine was supplied by local wine specialist Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine.  From there they filtered through a hallway lined with food stalls where a variety of producers offered samples of breads, meats, icecream, cake, sauces, in fact, every type of food you could think of.  Once the enthusiast foodies had satisfied their curiosity, it was into the function room for the cookery demonstrations.

The kitchen set up was impressive.  At the top of the room a cooking area had been laid out with a huge mirror overhead that gave everyone a great view of the worktop area.  Two big screens were arranged at either side of the cooking area that meant no one missed out on the events of the evening.  Our Twitter panel sat at the back of the room and were able to view everything perfectly and, despite the chattering that usually goes on at the rear of any hall, we had no problems hearing what was going on at the top.

Nicola Beresford was our hostess and compere for the evening.  She introduced the chefs and did a marvellous job of keeping us informed on the various dishes that were being cooked up, and in keeping the evening flowing.

Throughout the evening, our mouths watered as the smells and aromas of freshly cooked meat, veg, herbs and spices wafted around the room.  Sheila Kelly from Bord Bia cooked up four different dishes, including Mexican Chilli Beef with Avocado dressing and spicy red pepper salsa, and Stir Fried Pork with Gingered Noodles, both of which I sampled afterwards and was very impressed with.  Sarah Baker (@sarahbakercooks) prepared Inch House Black Pudding tart tatin using Con Traas apples, served up with a relish from The Scullery.  Jane Boyce, one of four Masters of Wine in Ireland gave recommendations on wine to go with each dish.

Pat Whelan (of James Whelan Butchers in Clonmel), the Chairman of the Tipperary Food Producers’ Network, spoke about the Food Connect programme that links transition year students in eleven schools across North and South Tipperary with food producers in the community.  Some of the students, many of whom tweeted from the hotel that evening, were followed by RTE’s ‘Ear to the Ground’ for the week, as they worked with various producers and gained a valuable insight into business operations.  Ear to the Ground also filmed the Cookery Extravaganza and we can look forward to seeing coverage on our screens very soon.

When the cookery demonstrations were over people mingled in the foyer enjoying canapés and wine, all provided by the Tipperary Food Producers’ Network.  The feedback to the event was similar from everyone.  They’d enjoyed the evening, were armed with recipe ideas and booklets for Christmas, and were more aware of the excellent choice in good, fresh, wholesome produce available on their own doorstep.  For more information on Tipperary Food Producers, what they do, and other events, just log onto:


Derry O’Donnell, publisher of Life & Fitness says…

It’s not often that you have something to look forward to in November. Generally it’s batten down the hatches and hold tight for Christmas. However, this year was different. Last Wednesday, 10th November, The Tipperary Food Producers held a Christmas Cooking Extravaganza in The Clonmel Park Hotel, Clonmel. The weeks leading up to it were filled with anticipation. I was receiving press releases about the event and Twitter was alive with talk amongst foodies and folk living in Tipperary.

About a week or so before the night I received an invite from Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers to participate in a Twitter Panel whose job it was to tweet about the event on the night. Wow, I thought to myself, generally twitter distracts me from my job. At this, tweeting IS my job.

I’ve often been at events or occasions where a number of people and I have tweeted about what was going on at the time. But this was something new to me. This was an organised panel. And I mean organised. A room off the main bar was reserved for us. We were given tea, coffee and sandwiches before the main event. A table in the main hall was reserved for us. It had a sign on it ‘Twitter Panel’. Our usernames were printed on the sign! It was like being in a press box and I guess that’s what it was. But rather than journalists scribbling furiously into notebooks we were all tapping away on our laptops and iphones delivering live commentary to countless people. It wasn’t just written messages either. Photographs, video and audio were also being shared out to the World. ‘Tipperary’ and the hashtag #tippfood became trending topics on Twitter. I doubt there was a single person from Ireland on Twitter that night who wasn’t aware that a group of some of the finest food producers from Co. Tipperary had something cooking.

I was also pleasantly surprised and bemused to discover some transition year students from my old school St Josephs College, Borrisoleigh were also on the panel. They were part of the Food Connect Program run in conjunction with the Tipperary Food Producers. How times have changed, I thought. There were no mobile phones back in my school days, let alone Twitter.

The event itself was very professionally organised. Locally produced juices and wine were available in the hotel lobby on arrival. Trays of delicious canapés containing mouth watering samples of some of the food producers products were passed around.   Members of the Tipperary Food Producers had stalls along the walls of the corridor leading up to the main hall. You could chat with the owners, sample their produce and buy some to take home. The main hall had a fantastic set up. A large screen beside the stage showing what was happening on stage ensured no one missed a thing.

Bord Bia Chef Sheila Kelly began the cookery demonstration. Equipped with a radio microphone and excellent amplification every member of the audience could also clearly hear her instructions. A mirror overhead the worktop angled to face the audience meant you could see every slice and dice.

Jane Boyce a Master of Wine also provided some insightful snippets during the night. Cooking demonstrations were also provided by Sarah Baker of Cloughjordan Cookery School and Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers.

Outside in corridor it was great to get a chance to have a quick chat with some of the Tipperary Food Producers. Veronica Molloy of Crossogue Preserves had a wonderful display of jams and chutneys. Crossogue Preserves was the overall winner of the 2009 National Enterprise Awards County Competition.

I was speaking to Mags Bergin of Mags Home Baking when it transpired that we have spoken on the phone several times over the years but had never met before. This was due to her husband Pat, who runs a successful picture framing business in Nenagh. A slice of her bread with some Cooleeney cheese is simply divine.

It was truly wonderful to be part of such a positive night. A dark November night that brought a capacity crowd of around 500 people to celebrate what Tipperary has to offer.


Mag Kirwan (@goatsbridge) says…

I spent an absolutely fantastic evening g at the Food Extravaganza in Clonmel last week. As you can see from the panel (photo above)  I was in very good company indeed.

The idea was very novel and I think it was a great way to communicate to the outside world the great work being done in Tipperary to promote the local artisan food movement.

From my point of view I think it was a good opportunity to meet some of the food producers I have learned to admire over the last few years and I also think it is very important to share ideas and hopefully work closely with them in the future.

Hats off to all involved but make no mistake we in Kilkenny will be back next year for the all-Ireland hurling final. They have started on their diet of trout already!!


Michael Clarke, ClonmelInfo, says …

Christmas Cookery Extravaganza 2010

I have just attended the Christmas Food Extravaganza at the Clonmel Park Hotel and I must say it was a pleasure to be there.

As we entered the Hotel the crowd of people, I believe 500 in total were sampling various foods and drinks from the Tipperary Food Producers Stalls

James Whelan Butchers
Crossogue Preserves
Cooleeney Cheese
Brownes Soup
Mags Home Baking
The Cookie Jar
Crowe’s Farm
Red Nose Wine
The Scullery
Inch House
Hickeys Bakery
The Apple Farm
O Donnells Crisps
The Auld Mill Bakery
Fine Foods Cashel
Boulaban Farm Ice Cream

The Stalls went all the way to the ballroom where the cookery display was been held by Sheila Kelly of Bord Bia and Sarah Baker of The Sarah Baker Cookery School.

To add to this fine presentation was Jane Boyce Master of Wines offering her tips on which wines would go well with certain foods.

A special well done to the hostess on the night Nicola Beresford who asked the questions most of us were thinking and offered her tips and opinions during the course of the evening.

Overall the night was fantastic, it is great to see such variety of food and more to the point sourced right here in Tipperary. The quality of cooking was, let just say mouthwatering and leave it at that.

Congratulations to Pat Whelan and all at Tipperary Food Producers for organising the event, may it be the first of many.

And to my fellow tweeters well done on a good nights tweeting @ #tippfood

@Bibliocook @Derryo @brianpcleary @Queenofpots @keithbohanna @goatsbridge @omaniblog @anygivenfood @rogeroverall


Roger Overall writes…

There I was, sitting at the back of a hall filled with 500 people, mostly housewives it seemed to me, watching cookery demonstrations at the “Food Extravaganza” organized by the Tipperary Food Producers Network. I was in one of the special seats, those reserved for the select few: the twitterati who had been invited to tweet live from the event.

What on Earth was I doing there?

Why would I travel over an hour on a wet Tuesday evening to tweet for several hours about a food event in Clonmel without any obvious compensation? Sure, it was an ego-massage to be invited, but did I seriously have nothing better to do with my evening than bother my twitter followers with a string of tweets about a food event?

Why indeed?

The short answer is: relationships.

My dream assignment would be to document a year in the life of a vineyard. I’m not overly fussy where the vineyard is located, though France would be preferable. Bordeaux would be nice. The Loire valley acceptable. Honestly, though, I wouldn’t turn anyone down as long as they were good people.

That’s still some distance from a wet Tuesday in Clonmel, but bear with me.

Wine is part of a wider interest of mine. Food and drink.

I’m not a foodie per se. I talk a good game, but I simply don’t have the time to satisfy my interest in the kitchen or at the tables of Co. Cork’s great food outlets.

Nevertheless, I can say this: I have rarely been happier than when I’m photographing passionate food producers. I enjoy their company, their stories, their insights, their enthusiasm. I’ve been very fortunate to have photographed with several superb food producers in Ireland: Burren Smokehouse, Ummera, Ardsallagh Goats Cheese, O’Keeffe’s Bakery, Old Mill Confectionary, Follain to name a few that come readily to mind.

Being asked to attend a Tipperary food event was like waving catnip in front of a kitten. It would bring me into a new sphere of food producers. Who knew what relationships I might strike up?

Besides, the timing was perfect. I’m on a mission to expand my food portfolio. To this end, I’m selecting food producers to shoot personal projects with. Each one will result in a book. Once I have a series of these books, I’ll start approaching the big names in the business. The names you know. But first I need subjects to photograph for the portfolio books.

So how did I get on?

Well, I have arranged to explore the possibility of a documentary project with Pat Whelan, a truly visionary butcher. He is an interesting man and he has a story to tell. I would not have had the chance to meet him had I not agreed to tweet about the Tipp “Food Extravaganza”.

Additional benefits? It flushed out the foodies among my own followers on Twitter, providing us with yet another basis on which to deepen our relationships. And I met a whole new group of interesting tweeters to follow.

Besides, there was some very tasty food on offer.


Paul O’Mahony (@omaniblog) MarketingWriteNow says…

It was a flattering surprise to get an invite from Pat Whelan.  I hadn’t a clue who he was, his business, reputation, connections… anything.  But the fact that a stranger took the trouble to invite me to an intriguing event in Clonmel whetted my appitite.

The thing that turned me on most of all was the link between food producers of Tipperary & the coming generation. Young people learning about food production, food presentation & the marketing of Tipperary thru new media was the clincher for me.

It pushed all my buttons.

I did all due diligence: found out lots about the butcher-on-line.  It was great that I already knew Susan Cloonan (@queenofpots).  But it was wonderful to find myself in the companyof so many new people  who are so active on social media.

Yes –  the heroes of the event were Tipperary Food Producers Network.  The buzz they attracted was marvellous.  But without the connection to the Transition Year students from St Joseph’s College (@st_joes_college) I wouldn’t have been half as excited.

Irish people (British too) love audio.  The angle I hit on was to make a series of AudioBoos before, during & after the event – as a sort of campaign to spread the buzz.  You can listen to the complete set of recordings below.

Collaborating is the name of the game?

Tipperary Food Producers collaborated.  Students collaborated. We collaborated.  Pat Whelan went out of his own business to build links with others in many directions. We have practised the skill of collaborating. Why?  Because it’s fun, intelligent, necessary… Because it’s stupid not to.

The art of collaborating is a sacred ritual – part of the most ancient art animals have evolved.  We humans live in the forcefield created by dual polarities: self & social.  I could indulge myself by launching into a tirade against the lack of collaborating skill I’ve experienced in various places.  But Tipperary people collaborated well. I feel encouraged by their example.

It was great fun. In my business fun matters.  My aim is to help others make a living while enjoying the process.  This experience has reinforced my hope that this is the best way.  The anthem “Thank you Pat” is right.

AudioBoo recorded before the event:

10 November – It’s a long way to Tipperary

10 NovemberGood Food Ireland in Tipperary

10 November - Arriving at  Clonmel Park hotel for the event : students, Cooleeney cheese, Roger Overall

AudioBoo recorded at the event:

10 November – Meeting the Twitter Panel: @queenofpots, Brian Cleary (Clonmel Chamber), @bibliocook

10 November – Interviewing Ann Power from  PowerHousePRa surfer from Tramore

10 November – Listening to Sheila Kelly Bord Bia demonstrating & Master of Wine & reporting on students

10 November – Sounds of demonstration, Twitter Panel working,  live-streaming by @anygivenfood, @goatsbridge too

10 NovemberJane Boyce wine master in action – the sound of her voice speaking

10 NovemberRedNoseWine & Ice Cream interview with Michael Cantwell from Boulabán Farm

10 November - Nora from Inch House Black Pudding, Michael Cooleeney Cheese from Moyne

10 November –  Gary Gubbins RedNoseWine Ciaran Rooney winemaker, @garyvee story, @curiouswines

10 NovemberHickey’s Bakery Barm Brack – interview

11 November - Pat Whelan – interview recorded on the night of the event (ends abruptly due to battery ran out)

AudioBoo  recorded after the event:

18 November – Reflections from Cork on the process of putting a collaboration together

Article – A Soave kind of wine

October 29th, 2010

Bulls Blood

Last year around this time I wrote a piece on a Hungarian wine known as Bulls Blood. It was supposed to be a tip of the hat towards Halloween with the Blood reference. At some point I must have thought that I would consider bringing the wine into Ireland. Well that’s not going to happen anytime soon I am afraid. The market is not quite ready I think. We have a few more bottles of Merlot and Pinot Grigio to sell. It’s a shame as it is a really good hearty wine.

The Irish Times agree

I was interested to note in the weekend edition of the Irish Times that John Wilson covered the same ground as I did recently when breaking down the price of a bottle of wine. The only slight difference was that he has the final margin a little higher than I had. Maybe I need to put up the prices. Thunderbolts and Lightening, I think I am selling my wine too cheap. When this gets out we will need to install the crowd control grids again. All joking aside, I encourage you to look up Saturdays Times online and read about the pricing of wine in this country and how the government are talking such a huge cut. When the budget comes out, we may need to revisit it, so get your wine before Mr. Lenihan sucks the soul from the country.

I now banish this mention of the evil day to the toilet of inevitability. Instead, I will return to some of the characters I met on my recent trip to Italy. I deliberately took a little break from introducing them, as I was conscious of diluting what was a really educational and delicious trip to Italy. In some ways I am saving the best for last, as the remaining two winemaking families are iconic and have been for many years. Their very names evoke the heart of Italian white wine excellence.

The Hills of Soave

The Hills of Soave

Soave People

The Italian region of Soave got a bad name for a number of years as a change in Italian law expanded the region from its historical base in the hills around the medieval village of Soave. An historical and small area around a little village expanded into a huge area of commercial high yielding vines. So, now much like Burgundy, it is very important to know and trust the producer.

The KIngs of Soave

The KIngs of Soave

The very first bottle of wine to call itself Soave came from the Pieropan estate in the early 1930s. Founded by Leonildo Pieropan in 1890 and subsequently run by his two sons, Fausto and Gustavo, it was the youthful enthusiasm of his grandson Leonildo, known as Nino, that revolutionised it. Nino and Teresita run the company now and have been joined by their sons, Dario and Andrea.

Screwcaps and Classicos

Despite this link to tradition, they are pioneering screwcaps on classified Italian wines. They are determined that screwcap is the way forward and their Soave Classico wines reflect this. However, they were forced to reluctantly abandon the Classico denomination to achieve this. When you buy a bottle of Pieropan Soave you are actually getting a bottle of Soave Classico. Forget under cost rubbish wines, that is real value.

Jane Boyce MW listens beside the old bamboo drying Table

Jane Boyce MW listens beside the old bamboo drying Table

The mighty Oz is a fan

Oz Clarke ( who was in the first Superman film ) agrees and says “when the right grapes were grown in the right vineyards and turned into wine with skill and care, Soave was, and is, one of Italy’s loveliest white wines. This has a comehither scent of ripe apple and soft leather with just a whiff of tobacco and white peach. The flavour is subtle yet delightful: a tiny nip of grape skin tannin is easily disarmed by scented lemons and stones, a whisper of violet, a dash of creamy softness – succulence in pastel shades.” Flowery words indeed from Mr. Clarke, but good Soave is known as the Chablis of Italy and anyone who has tasted great Chablis will absolutely love this.

Darius Pieropan gives us the tour

Darius Pieropan gives us the tour

That restaraunt in Verona

A few people have asked me about the restaurant in Verona that I mentioned in a previous article. It is called Trattoria al Pompiere and has a website at If you are planning a trip to Verona, I would very much recommend this little piece of heaven. I can still taste the Amarone Risotto. It is a few steps from the Romeo and Juliet balcony, so if you need romantic inspiration, may I suggest a meal here followed by a squeeze under the balcony. If he or she is not butter in your arms at this point, you still have the ancient open air opera, which is about three minutes walk away. “Buona Fortuna”.

A good table in Verona

A good table in Verona

Food Extravaganza

There has been a huge uptake in tickets for the Food Extravaganza in the Clonmel Park on November 10th. Held in conjunction with Bord Bia, this promises to be a great evening. Jane Boyce MW will be on stage and matching wines to the food that Pat Whelan among others will be preparing. A lot of companies are using this as a team building night out and for 15 Euros it is great value. We want to show you what is on your doorstep and I think you will be amazed. Jamie Oliver and Richard Corrigan make TV shows about people like those in the Tipperary Food Producers. I urge you to come along and see what the term Taste the Difference really means.

A Very Tasty Wine Dinner

Red Nose Wine are starting to put final dates on our own more intimate wine evenings and we will be having an Irish winemaker in France over on November 24th. Ciaran Rooney of Domaine des Anges will host a wine dinner in Befanis restaraunt in Clonmel. They menu looks superb and I have never had a bad meal there. €45 for food and wine and a peek into the world of winemaking in Provence.

I am then planning on having an open house portfolio tasting on December 9th which will involve lots of wine open and little or no talking. I will pick the cream of the wines and open them up for a tapestry of wine. Be sure to get on the mailing list to get the information when it is hot off the press. Tickets will be limited. The competition for the Icon Wines from the Languedoc closes today, so if you are not Liking us on Facebook or following us on Twitter – do it today. Winners will be announced on Facebook & Twitter.  

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“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Article – The corked bottle of wine and the IMF

October 15th, 2010

The Revolution is coming

The wind is howling and the fires are being lit all over the country. I suppose I could wax lyrical about the leaves as they succumb to the call of nature and make their final journey, before the inevitability of decay. Am I talking about the weather or about the country itself? Will there be a general election or does it really matter? Will the guilty face justice or is revolution and anarchy a foregone conclusion in these crazy times?

Matt Cooper & the IMF

That first paragraph started off with such hope, and was really supposed to be a fancy way of telling you all that staying in with red wine by the fire is the new going out. Somewhere along the way, I got distracted and sucked into Matt Cooper style Last Word political comment. I am waiting for the call from Matt for an entrenched small businessman’s take on the economy. I have an MBA so if he needs it, I can get into all of the numbers and the IMF question. During the MBA, our economics lecturer brought over an economist from the IMF and he told us about what happens when they move in. It not a discussion to have during daylight hours or without some liquid courage, so we might need to combine it as part of an on air wine tasting. We’ve tweeted on Twitter, so Matt, you know how to contact me.

The last two articles have seen me squeeze many words from my trip to the Veneto area of Italy. The Pinot Grigio I spoke so highly of last week went down a storm for tasting this week. Rather than introduce another winemaker to you so soon, I will wait a little bit and talk generally and tell you a story from the trip that caused me great anxiety and to question my wine tasting abilities. But first, some background is necessary to suitably build tension and pathos towards the central character.

Masters of Wine

Jane Boyce MW with the Liberty gang on recent trip to Veneto

Jane Boyce MW with the Liberty gang on recent trip to Veneto

I have referred to people with the title Master of Wine a number of times in the past, and suffice to say it is a very difficult title to achieve. Many aspire to it, but most fail. There are only four of them in Ireland, and Jane Boyce MW is one of them. She was invited on the recent trip to Italy, as she writes freelance for a number of publications (including Food & Wine magazine and The Irish Times) about wine.

On the 2nd night of the trip we were taken to this very famous restaurant in the centre of Verona. An elderly man prepared cold cuts of meat in open view, as he has done for decades, and everyone squashed into the corners of the small dining room. Space was at a premium and we had a big table in the middle of the room. I was sitting at the corner, closest to the kitchen. Jane was on one side of me and a lady called Lizzie, who worked with the importer, was on the other side.

Plate of Cold Cut meats in Verona

Plate of Cold Cut meats in Verona

Tasting Corked Wines

The wines were ordered for the table and the sommelier came out with the reds to taste. This being Italy, the man was given the wine to taste. There is a Master of Wine on side of me and one of the people paying for the trip on the other, so I played the coward card. There was no way I was testing my nose and palate against these people. So, Lizzie tasted the wine, and low and behold it was rejected. A corked bottle is not as uncommon as you would imagine and the reason why so many people are pushing for screw caps on all wines. A replacement bottle was produced and once again, inexplicably, it was put in front of me to taste.

A Table full of empty glasses and full bellies

A Table full of empty glasses and full bellies

Once again, my cowardice showed its yellow face and I passed the honour to Jane. If you have a Master of Wine at the table, it makes sense to use them. As fate would have it, the second bottle was also corked, so I was delighted I had passed the glass. A third bottle was brought by a very contrary sommelier and his chauvinism knew no bounds, for he once again thrust it in front of yours truly. There was no way that the two ladies were gong to let me away this time, and I had no choice but to taste. I said to myself that it is not possible that three bottles could be corked, so I grabbed the glass and gave it a swirl with the confidence of a man who had statistics on his side.

Nowhere to Hide

I smelt the wine and I broke out in a cold sweat almost immediately. The wine wasn’t corked but it was not right in my very humble opinion. I was expecting lots of fresh fruit on the nose, but it was dead. I started to panic and doubt myself. Maybe this is what it is supposed to smell like. I tasted some and there was still nothing there that I would have expected to find. Mr. Red Nose was turning into Mr. Red Face. I remembered what I was always told when learning how to taste wine in France all those years ago. Trust your first instinct.

Delighted to say this was NOT corked and was fantastic - Txs DG

Delighted to say this was NOT corked and was fantastic - Txs DG

I took a deep breath and sucked in my belly and stuck out my chest and declared this wine to be “not quite right”. The sommelier wilted before our eyes and the rest of the table looked at me with a sense of impending doom. I quickly passed the offending glass to the Master of Wine and within a few seconds she confirmed my judgment. I could hear the fanfares blowing and the slow planning of a ticker tape parade in Clonmel to greet the returning hero. However, within a few minutes the conversation moved on and I was mortal once more. In saying that, it is very rare to find three corked wines in a row.

Food & Wine Extravaganza

If you would like to check the validity of this story, I am delighted to announce that Jane will be part of the Tipperary Food Producers Food Extravaganza in the Clonmel Park on November 10th. Held in conjunction with Bord Bia, this promises to be a great evening. I have already had a number of requests and enquiries for tickets and they are now available in the shop. Jane will work alongside the chefs on the night and do a food and wine pairing talk. This is not to be missed.

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“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist Oct 13 2010

Article – The Groucho Marx of Wine

October 8th, 2010

The poster of Franz Haas we all received as we left

The poster of Franz Haas we all received as we left

Another Day, Another Lunch

That tasting I mentioned last week in Ballymaloe was fantastic and with the risk of Silvia Allegrini thinking that I am stalking her, I think I’ll wait a while before the next wine dinner. Two Allegrini dinners within a week and in two different countries is a lot. As promised I present a new tale from my Italian odyssey and. One of the longer bus journeys of the trip took us up towards Austria and the Alps. It was to a meet a man named Franz Haas in a place called Montagna, which lies half way between Verona and Innsbruck.

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine visits Franz Haas in Alto Adige

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine visits Franz Haas in Alto Adige

James Bond Elevator into the mountains

An impressive winery greets us, built into the side of the mountain. It looks tiny from the dangerous mountain road where it sits. However, the modest façade hides a labyrinth of cellars and tanks and an elevator that brings you high into the mountain and a dining room and tasting room that hangs over the edge of the world. Am I being a touch dramatic? Perhaps, but the wines were of a quality that really surprised me and made me wonder why I had chosen to ignore the Alto Adige region for so long.

Have you ever had Pinot Grigio? – Real Pinot Grigio

One of my best selling wines is a cheap and cheerful Pinot Grigio from Italy. It only costs 8.50 Euros and is all apples and pears and easy to drink. It is well made but not overly exciting but I understand why it is so popular. When my Pinot Grigio fans are in the shop I am going to ask them to taste Franz Haas’s version of Pinot Grigio. We will have it open from this weekend and on special. This is real Pinot Grigio just as Chablis and White Burgundy are real Chardonnays. By real, I mean the grapes are grown in a place where they belong and the full luscious fruit that Pinot Grigio is known for is fully expressed.

By all means, people can go back to their old style Pinot Grigio, but I would love them to at least know what it is supposed to taste like. Mr. Haas’s Pinot is straw yellow in colour with perfumes of flowers and rich almonds as the wine develops. On the palate it is ripe and full-bodied with a lifted acidity from the high vineyards, and has a lovely depth from the lees ageing. I will be running a special price on this to celebrate its arrival into the shop. Please call in to taste it.

Franz Haas treats us to a great dinner

Franz Haas treats us to a great dinner

So, other than his Pinot Grigio, what else is so special about Mr. Haas and his mountain wines? Well firstly, he has what we like to call pedigree or heritage. His family, and in particular each firstborn son (called Franz) has been doing this since 1880. The current Franz is the 7th in the long line.

The view from this vineyard is possibly the most beautiful I have ever seen, and I have been lucky enough to see lots of them. The man himself is quite a character and wears a Groucho Marx like moustache on this bald head. His mannerisms and movements are more like Harpo as he curtsied and bowed. He pretended not to speak very good English and came in and out of the visit as he was very busy.

The view from Franz Haas vines

The view from Franz Haas vines

We were gate crashing the harvest it must be said, so it would not have come as a surprise if we given the road. Instead we were treated like royalty and the panoramic vineyard tour was followed by a cellar visit and a chance to taste some freshly picked Sauvignon Blanc must from a fermenting barrel. Basically, it is like very concentrated sparkling grapefruit juice. A taste is enough, as it is very harsh on the stomach. A refreshing glass of Pinot Grigio brought us back to life. God Bless the bus driver. I normally spit my way around vineyards, but I could enjoy it a little bit more on this trip.

The cellar was followed by a delicious dinner in the aforementioned dining room. To all of my Tipperary Food Producer friends, can I suggest a new product? We had fennel bread with the lunch and it was just heaven. It may have something to do with a local saying, “Pane e vino fanno un bel bambino” which means “bread and wine make a beautiful baby”. Both are seen as essential nourishment. I am not recommending wine for a baby by the way. This magic bread was followed by the obligatory Risotto of course and a range of other local delicacies.

More Risotto ....

More Risotto ....

The Alto Adige region is strong with German roots but also with Venetian history and this offers a very different take on both styles. The Rhaetian Alps and the Dolomites wall this region in, and this is evident by the photo I took from the vineyard. Even if you don’t like wine, it is a beautiful place to visit. The wines of Mr. Haas are typical of the area and Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Nero (or Noir), Traminer join local varieties such as Lagrein, a delicious red wine.

I always enjoy being surprised in the wine business and for everything I have learned about new wines and areas, there is so much more to learn. I know that most people will stick to their cheaper Pinot Grigio but all I can do is show you the difference, and ultimately it is up the consumer. Never was the old adage about the customer being always right truer than in wine.

Keep a date in your diary free. There is a Tipperary Food Producers Food Extravaganza in the Clonmel Park on November 10th with Bord Bia involvement. As well as the chefs on show,  Jane Boyce MW, once of only 4 Masters of Wine in Ireland will be giving a talk on food and wine pairing talk. She is not to be missed and will be worth the price of admission alone. She was on the trip to Italy and I tried to convince her to travel down for this important local event. On another note, another Tipperary Food Producer, Nuala Hickey has just won Gold at the Blas na hEireann Food Awards in Dingle. Well done to Nuala.

(There are much more photos available on Facebook and we will be posting video very soon )

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“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist Oct 06 2010(

Article – The Social Media Harvest party

September 24th, 2010

Maggie May picks the grapes

“It’s late September and I really should be back in school”. So sang Rod Stewart in his little ditty about Maggie May. Wouldn’t it be nice if one could make a living out of playing pool? I must admit to being a little jealous of the people who are heading back to college now for another year of learning and a bit of fun on the side. Youth really is wasted on the young. Before I choke on another cliché I must confess to being in a panic. I am sitting in the shop on a Saturday and I am leaving for Italy early Monday morning. No recession here you are shouting, but I assure you that the recession is alive and well. However, it shall be put to one side for a few days, as I am delighted to say I am being brought away for a few days by one of the importers I work with. They are paying for everything, and all I have to do is be at the airport at 5.15 on Monday morning, which is a little obscene in my eyes. It’s not the early morning or the late of night. It is like a parallel universe where nobody is really awake. I can confidently predict I will be like a briar for the first few hours. Needless to say I will squeeze a few articles out this trip, and hopefully some nice pictures from the Venice/Verona area.


Talking it up

Before this I have a list of jobs to get through and the clock is ticking. One of those jobs is this article, so here we go. The harvest is currently in full swing across the vineyards of Europe and I am waiting on many a winemaker to get back to me on varying issues and orders. I don’t see them doing so until the hay is saved, so to speak. The harvest is the whole point of their year and as usual the whisperings of the potential crop is varying. Bordeaux are talking it up as normal, but they are alone as other parts of France are not so excited. The others don’t have a new and cash rich group of customers in China who are driving prices of the great Cru Classé wines even higher. The sad part is that many of these great wines are now out of the reach of most people and only a privileged few get to taste them. During the interviews for my MBA thesis, I had the great pleasure to meet and taste with the winemakers in Châteaux Palmer, Leoville Las Cases and possibly the most famous of them all, Chateau Margaux. These wines are phenomenal but I can’t even write down the prices for the good vintages, such is my fear of being ridiculed. If you are curious, go to, the online fine wine exchange to see the market prices for these classics and others. You have been warned – the prices are crazy.

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine at Chateau Margaux

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine at Chateau Margaux

The vineyards communicate

I’ve written about the harvest in a previous article so I won’t repeat myself, but will talk about it from a different point of view. The social media world ( Facebook, Twitter)  that I have embraced so warmly lets us look into the fields and the Vignerons at work. Many of the vineyards that I work with are posting photos and updates from the ongoing harvest. Chateau Paradis in Provence have decided to delay the harvest until September 19th, their latest ever start. Basile Guibert from Mas de Daumas Gassac has posted lots of photos from the vines and regular updates on progress. These are just a handful of the vineyards posting their progress back as it happens. I only hope that they continue this into the final evening’s harvest party where many a row of vines has known to be visited by a courting couple at 2 in the morning. They feel no rocks beneath them and do not realise that the bare vines hold no cover from the prying eyes of the other workers. Ah, the stories that they tell me on my visits. By all accounts, many a long distance relationship was forged over the backbreaking work that is a harvest. Other people give false addresses and disappear from the romantic setting of a harvest, never to be seen again. A winemaker will give you all the gossip if you order enough wine.

romantic vineyards

It tends to be migrant workers who return each year from different parts of the world and the same people in general return every year to the same vineyard. If any of you would like to partake in a harvest, please let me know and I can try and arrange a job in the sticky hot vines for next year. The pay is terrible, the work backbreaking but the harvest party is supposed to be great. The harvest will be in full flow for my trip to Italy, but I might be too early for the party. I am willing to offer useless advice from the comfort of the tasting room, but I have no intention of using my back. It’s already in a bad way from lifting cases of wine. So, with this in mind, I have a few more jobs to get through before I can head off to Dublin and a flight to Venice. I hope to report back with lots of stories next week. Ciao for now.

The Tipperary Food Producers are organizing a Food Extravaganza on November 10th in the Clonmel Park Hotel. We hope to get one of our winemakers over to talk about wine and food, so keep that date in your head. It could be a great night out with lots of food and wine and interesting conversation.

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“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

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.

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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 Aug 12 2010

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist Aug 12 2010