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See the 99 point vines at La Peira

May 31st, 2012

One of our very favorite vineyards, La Péira was part of the visit to the Languedoc with our friends at Curious Wines last May, and Mike has posted a little video of Jérémie Depierre, winemaker at the great estate.

This is the vineyard described by Gary Vaynerchuk as “the next great global cult wine”. He also said this – “Dense, rich and explosive, with layer after layer of flavor and complexity. Ripe, but never over the top, this stunning effort should easily last 25 to 30 years. Expect ENORMOUS ratings for this wine. Syrah with a small amount of Grenache Noir. This wine just took my breathe away.” 99 points.

Jeremie Depierre shows me the cellars in La Peira

Jeremie Depierre shows me the cellars in La Peira

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate award the 2009 vintage 96 points and called the wines “sensational”.

One of my favourite critics, Jeb Dunnuck of The Rhone Report said this before lavishing it with scores….

“One of the top estates in the Languedoc, and certainly in the crème de la crème of estates in the south of France, La Pèira en Damaisèla is owned by the well-known UK composer Robert Dougan, with the winemaking team consisting of Jérémie Depierre, with Claude Gros consulting. Producing full-bodied, powerful, and exceedingly rich wines, this estate is set apart by their ability to produce wines that not only show thrilling levels of fruit and texture, but also manage to hold onto a sense of purity, elegance, and balance.” – The Rhone Report, March 2012.

2010 La Pèira Terrasses du Larzac: “A more classic, structured, and mineral-driven profile with utterly captivating aromatics of crème de cassis and pit styled fruits that are intermixed with notions of roasted herbs, chocolate, crushed stone, and candied flowers that literally soar from the glass. Deep, layered, and yet still incredibly light and elegant on the palate, with spectacular purity of fruit, loads of richness, and fantastic freshness, this full-bodied beauty might just eclipse both the ‘07 and ‘09 (97-100 pts.)” – The Rhone Report, March 2012.

Enjoy a rare peak into a very special vineyard at the start of its journey into superstardom.

Article – Horses for Courses

May 24th, 2012

The communions are in full swing as I write this on a sunny / cloudy Saturday morning. I passed a good few white dresses and stressed parents on the way into work this morning. We have a five year old’s birthday to contend with but it seems less daunting than the communions.

Knobbly knees and Dairy Milks

My memory of my communion is my neighbour buying me a red confirmation rosette instead of a white communion one. Everyone noticed and laughed outside St Marys church. At least my mother didn’t dress me in shorts like some of the lads. The sight of the knobbly knees brigade deflected away from my Red rosette. There were no wine laden dinners in those days or €50 notes in a card. Careys Lounge was the post communion setting and Dairy Milk the reward for making the big step on your spiritual journey.

Anyway, memory lane is an indulgence the good wine public of Tipperary won’t suffer too much longer, so I better talk about wine. I want to compare wines to the breeding of horses, if I may. I recently joined the FUSE initiative, which is an networking organisation among businesses in the South East of Ireland. They organised a breakfast meeting in Coolmore this week and I jumped at the chance to attend.

I had never been there and have long been fascinated by what they do. I was lucky enough to attend the Ryder Cup in Ireland a few years ago and it was organised to such a word class level, it made me really proud to be Irish. Coolmore had a similar effect.

The Great Galileo

I am way off the point now, but in an attempt to be succinct, Coolmore is a world leader, and sets worldwide standards for others in their industry to try and reach. It is an example of what the Irish can do well, but it is coupled with an execution and vision that sets it apart. I came out of the visit very inspired, and I got to meet Galileo. I was hoping to meet Dylan Thomas as he made me some nice money a few years ago. I owe him at least a lump of sugar.

A fine Tipperary Stallion

A fine Tipperary Stallion

Hey Camelot – who’s your Daddy?

A good friend on mine in London, originally from Clonmel is an avid follower of Ballydoyle and the great Aidan O Brien. He has put a ‘small’ wager on a horse called Camelot in the Epson Derby. The horse is favourite so why is that strange? He placed the bet ante post at over 20-1. I have a very nice case of wine set aside for his hopeful winnings.

Who's your Daddy

Who's your Daddy

Communions, stallions and very little wine – what are we to do. Those familiar with Coolmore will know about a horse called Northern Dancer, and his son Saddlers Wells. My mate Galilieo is a son of Saddlers. The breeding in this line of horses has created a roll of champions that is the envy of the racing world. Wine is quite similar, but slightly different.

The 1855 classification in Bordeaux tells us what were the great wines of that year, and bye and large, they still hold true. They were broken into five groups with the 1er Cru at the top. One of these five is Chateau Margaux and it was regarded the very best estate in Margaux back then, and still is. Chateau Latour and Lafite are still seen as the standard bearers for Paulliac. Their ‘breeding line’ has stood the test of time.

Chateau Margaux – the Coolmore of Wine

Chateau Margaux - the Coolmore of Wine?

While I appreciate that vines don’t breed as a stallion and brood mare might, the fact exists that the same vines are consistently producing great wines year after year. Over 150 years after their greatness was recognised, they are still the standard bearers. While the root vine and terroir are a part of this, there is also constant reinvestment and the attention to detail is staggering.

There are many examples of vineyards within the list that didn’t maintain their attention to detail and have fallen back into mediocrity. While they maintain their place on the list, the prices paid for the wines reflect their true standing.

The manicured vines of Chateau Margaux

The manicured vines of Chateau Margaux

Equally, if I go out and look for a pieball pony and breed it with any old willing mare, there is a good chance its offspring will not challenge Camelot or any of his siblings at Epsom. I could go and buy a few hectares in the south of France and go and make wine. I can be as meticulous as I like, but if that land is not suitable for making great wine, I will join the many who live in the pleasant world of mediocrity.

That is not a bad place to be, as long as you know where you are. I must stress I am talking about the top end of wine here. This should not take from the fact that most of the wines we drink and gain pleasure from do not fit into this elite group. It should be stated that previously unheralded parts of the world have created superstar wines. The Languedoc is now producing some of the finest wines in the world. They are a fraction of the prices of the top Bordeaux and Burgundy. Seabiscuit does exist in the wine world.

If Seabiscuit was a vineyard

Places like the Terrases du Larzac always had the ‘breed’ in the land, but it was never properly harvested. Bulk wines are all about volume, while fine wine is all about concentration. These two cannot co-exist so when serious wine makers came in, they brought execution and vision. The latest scores for La Peira have just been released and they are touching 100 points. I have tasted most of the top Bordeaux wines, and La Peira is a serious contender.

Jeremie Depierre shows me the cellars in La Peira

Jeremie Depierre shows me the cellars in La Peira

Many more experimental winemakers will go and get clippings from the great estates of the world transplant them to their vineyard. Aime Guibert of Mas de Daumas Gassac did this back in the 1970s in his now famous estate. People thought he was mad, but he grafted Burgundy Pinot Noir, Bordeaux Cabernet, Piedmonte Nebbiolo and many more to create a unique vineyard that was eventually described as the Grand Cru of the Midi.

The great Languedoc pioneer Aime Guibert and his son Samuel

The great Languedoc pioneer Aime Guibert and his son Samuel

A very fine affair in Ballymaloe

While his Grand Cru red is 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, there are 19 or so other varieties that Samuel Guibert describes as the salt and pepper. Samuel’s mother Veronique co founded the vineyard with Aime and she has written a book based on cooking among the vines in the Gassac Valley. I am honoured to co host an event for the launch of this book on August 2nd in Ballymaloe.

Darina Allen and her team in the famous Cookery School are having a long table dinner in the grounds of the school with Madame Guibert’s book being the inspiration for the menu. The Grand Cru wines are going to be served as the Allens and the Guibert’s talk and taste their way through a feast of food and wine. Get your tickets quick as this is a small intimate event.

Who’s coming to Epsom?

So, I will be cheering on Camelot on June 2nd and hoping to move a case of La Peira to my ante post hero. I may have to consider going over to Epsom to make sure all runs smoothly. Now there is a plan worth pursuing. We could organise a bus from McCarthys in Fethard. I’ll bring the wine if someone else brings the tickets.

The new Loyalty card scheme is proving very popular. The Silver cards are free, and after 10 stickers ( earned every time you spend €25 ) you get FREE WINE. You also get a Gold card and at the end of that, there is even more FREE WINE, and you move on to the revered platinum card. The May sale if still on, so call in for 20% off the Languedoc and South Africa.

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“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Gary and Mike’s Bon Voyage

May 21st, 2012

Our good friends at Curious Wines have put a trailer together for a video of a trip myself and Michael Kane ( not the actor ) made last year to Mas de Daumas Gassac and La Peira in the Languedoc.

I have the footage as well, so if they hand me on the edit, I can always put out a behind the scenes version. I will post the ‘film’ and its sequel as they are published. Here’s the teaser …

#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.

Article – Old Dogs and New Tricks

February 11th, 2011

Last week’s article title ( How Old is Too Old? ) has just come back to bite me. I am writing this in my kitchen after returning from a quick spin on my new bike. I only went into town to post a few letters, but I am struggling for breath. The Fethard Road hill nearly killed me. To think I once ran a marathon.

Red Nose Wine runs the Paris marathon ( while ignoring undercover paparazzi )

Red Nose Wine runs the Paris marathon ( don't ask who the other guy is - took me 8 miles to lose him)

A Bike for All Seasons

I think 37 might be too old after all. I got the bike from fellow Tweeter and blogger Barry Meehan ( of World Wide Cycles fame ) and he passed me as I cycled. Luckily it was on the decent into town so I was still able to save face and feign complete comfort on my first bike journey for twenty years. To be fair, my derriere was unaffected by the odyssey. I bought a good saddle.

Barry tries to take my picture on bike but I am too fast & he takes the guy on the bike behind me instead

Barry tries to take my picture on bike but I am too fast & he takes the guy on the bike behind me instead

Apart from the obvious fitness issues it also took twenty minutes to feel my thumbs again. The next time I will bring gloves. I am so sick of winter. Dearest Mother Nature, you have made your point, now please turn up the temperature in the swimming pool you call Ireland. As the late great George Harrison once sang, “it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter”. We’ll give you until Valentine’s Day and then we want decent weather all the way through until November.

A fit vine?

Is there such a thing as a fit wine or more relevantly, a fit vine? Do vines reach a peak in terms of their fruit production and does it vary depending on yield, grape variety and location? I know many of you have stayed awake at night wondering about this very thing. I am here to try and explain this to you so you can sleep soundly at night.

Very old Shiraz

With this tone of not quite taking oneself so seriously, I shall proceed. I spoke before of a wine that I had tasted from Australia that was made from Shiraz vines that were planted in 1843 in the Barossa Valley. How would these compare to a young Shiraz from the same area? For the purposes of research I tasted both on the same day and these are my thoughts.

The big difference for me was the older vine wines had the classic spices and black fruits you would expect from Barossa Shiraz but it also had an earthiness and denseness and lovely acidity that really balanced out the wine. The younger vines produced a much more fruit forward style with lots of energy but none of the earthiness that I personally love in a wine. I know the 1843 Shiraz importer and if any of you want a bottle, I can put you in touch with Mr. Kane.

Where are all the Old Vines gone?

Vines will keep giving fruit if well cared for but as the years progress, the yield does diminish and aggressive pruning is important. What you start to lose in intensity and power, you get back in complexity and depth. There has been a lot of EU driven subsides for French farmers to rip up old vines and some really great Carignan ( which benefits greatly from older vines ) has been lost. It’s not just Ireland where the EU are causing chaos.

Where the old vine is planted is also relevant as old vines in Oregon might only be 25 years, in France it could be 80 years but in Australia ( as in the Freedom ) it is 168 years, although this is extreme.

Phylloxera in France

You must remember that France had the phylloxera infestation in 1855 and American rootstock was required to eventually replant the decimated vineyards. It took France a long time to recover. For trivia lovers among you, the only European grape that is natively resistant to phylloxera is the Assyrtiko grape which grows on the volcanic island of Santorini, Greece.

But we move away from the core of the article with this talk of destructive parasites. On a completely separate issue, I hope you all have noticed that I have veered away from discussing banks and politicians these last few articles.

An Election in Wine

I am running a competition in the run up to the election where people guess how many seats will be won ( or lost ) be various parties. The culmination will be a special offer for election night where we will all be at home watching the events unfold. If ever there was a time for a good bottle of wine, the election night is it.

The Election Candidates

The Election Candidates

Obriers de La Péira back in stock

Speaking of which, the Obriers de La Péira wine that Lar Veale of the Sunday Tribune described in December as “quite simply the best wine I have had all year” is back in stock, or should be by the time this article is published. On the back of Lar’s kind words, the wine sold out online within a few hours.

Tribune Review Obriers Dec19 2010

Tribune Review Obriers Dec19 2010

I have also managed to get some of the 2005 vintage as well as the 2008 but as before, stocks are limited as this is an allocation wine. I literally had to beg for some more wine from the winemaker. You will not taste a better wine under €20 .

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Article – Fethard Today, Moscow Tomorrow

January 28th, 2011

The Bridgestone Top 100 Places to Eat was published recently and John McKenna could be heard on various radio shows and was quoted in a number of national newspapers. As a proud recipient of a Bridgestone Award and having heard John speak on a number of occasions, I am always interested in his opinion of what’s hot and what’s not.

It is of course a subjective opinion and one person’s salt is another person’s pepper. However, one thing that struck me from the interviews I heard was the assertion that to save the national economy we must first save the local one. It is a subject that I have become very passionate about since opening Red Nose Wine (at the start of a recession), and more especially since getting involved with the Tipperary Food Producers. Wine and Food are two parts of the same experience for me.


A Donegal Table

I spoke of food and wine last week and will again this week, but a few good news stories emerged from the despair that 2010 brought to the restaurant trade. When I spoke on behalf of the Tipperary Food Producers Network in Kilkenny last year at the FoodCamp seminar I met Donal Doherty of Harrys Bar & Restaurant in Inishowen Co. Donegal. This is a restaurant in a very remote part of the country that has become one of the most sought after eating experiences in Ireland. John McKenna mentioned them on radio and in print numerous times.

Local Local Local 

What makes them different is they have a very bold yet sincere declaration in terms of their promise to customers. All of the food must come from “one small beautiful penninsula – Inishowen”. This is taking local food to the maximum and they proudly list their local food partners as sharing in the glory. Myself and Donal are members of the Twitterati and you can follow the movements of the restaurant in real time. He is known as @harrysdonal in the Twitter world.

The savage winter would have cost them ( and many other restaurant owners ) a lot of business, especially in the critical December month. However, when the weather relented in the week after Christmas, according to John McKenna the restaurant did 2,000 covers. ( I met Donal in Dublin since the article was published and that number was actually closer to 2,100 ). Inishowen is a small place and that figure requires loyalty built with people who are travelling from far and wide.

As a Tipperary man talking about local food, then why should I talk about Donegal? It might be a long way to Tipperary but Donegal is surely further away. It is a model of success that I believe offers a great opportunity for Tipperary restaurants. I know that a lot of cafes and restaurants do buy local produce but I am not aware of one that does so exclusively. If there is one, please let me know.

Wow do you make your sauce?

There are a number of large food and beverage companies that supply a lot of the hotels and restaurants in Ireland at a very competitive rate. As well as choice, they also have that most useful of commodities, economies of scale. They offer a low cost alternative in a struggling industry so it is very easy to see why people use them. However, when the sauce on your chicken comes from a jar and tastes identical in Cork and in Sligo, then I believe you are losing more than you are gaining.

The business’s that are adapting to the economy best are offering something very different from their competitors and I think people want value, and as I have said before, value does not equate to price. If it did, we would all eat in McDonalds and I would never sell a bottle of La Péira.

A very special pub ( with great food )

I have had some really fantastic food in Tipperary and I think we are awash with great places to eat. I am trying to get Jasper in McCarthys in Fethard to put my picture up on the wall in the very famous pub. I have a space in mind beside Pricilla Presley. I am trying to argue that he would have it up before I am famous for the book I shall one day write. So far, he is not biting.

The Legendary McCarthys

The Legendary McCarthys

McCarthys do have a lot of local produce on their menu ( 90% of meat on the last order ) and I had a sublime meal out there recently. I had aged Tipperary beef in a Red Wine sauce which was cooked to perfection ( medium – rare). I have to admit I supply wine out there so when I say the wine was perfect with it, I am very biased. I am sure Brad Pitt is biased when says he has a great looking wife, but it doesn’t mean he is wrong.

The owner of Chateau Miraval ( on sale at Red Nose Wine )

The owner of Chateau Miraval ( on sale at Red Nose Wine )

Brad and Angelina also have a great wine called Miraval, but blatant plugs aside, McCarthys was a great night out and a good example of somewhere that people are wiling to travel to. The new chef has transformed the menu and the fish my wife had was “fresh as a daisy”.

Tipperary Food

Tipperary has a great opportunity to become the county of choice for food. Bord Bia released fantastic export figures recently and food is a strong positive in a very weak economy. Tipperary has the brand name, the location, but more importantly we have the food. As soon as it is possible to make quality wine in Tipperary, I will be the guinea pig, but until that time, I will match the local food to the wine of like minded people from around the world.

We just need people to buy into this idea of local business saving the national economy. The restaurants need to do it, but the people must support it and they must get value for money.

That is a lot of words about food in an article about wine, but I did warn you last week that I would talk about food for a few articles. I have a lot of plans to get Red Nose Wine to the next level in 2011 and many are ideas that involve food and local food at that. I am always looking to work with like minded people on these ideas.

I have just ordered my first container of wine from Chile with some other importers who are very like minded in what they are trying to bring to the Irish wine industry. We are competitors but we are also fighting the same fight and have many things we can help each other with.

Ham & Pinot Noir

Speaking of wine, I will now describe a typical Tipperary dish and I will match it to a wine for you. I was invited to a very food orientated party last weekend and there was all manner of food on offer. Among these was a perfectly prepared ham, sourced from the wonderful Crowe Farm in Dundrum.. A sweeter style wine is required here and Riesling or Gewurztraminer would be great white options. A medium bodied Pinot Noir ( possibly from New Zealand ) would be a great red to match the ham.

Ella Mcsweeney visits Crowes Farm

Ella Mcsweeney visits Crowes Farm

Apologies to Pat Whelan for stepping on his “Food” toes with the early part of the article but I think that Pat would agree with the sentiment. He is a very strong advocate of local food and Tipperary Food in particular. I appreciate that I am repeating myself but by saving the local economy we can save the national one. We need to become an exporting country, and food can play a big part of this. But this must start locally first. Fethard today and Moscow tomorrow.

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“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”