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

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Domaine des Anges Wine Dinner Nov 24th

October 27th, 2010

Christmas is coming and the goose will be a miserable looking effort after Brian Lenihan gets us in his radar for the Budget. So before all of that, Red Nose Wine makes a galant effort to bring a little continental flavour into your lives.

As you all know, the Irish travel well, and have made great success of themselves across the globe. We all have the relations who made good in America. To this day Irish names resonate across the wine world. Bordeaux in particular has Lynch, Kirwan, MacCarthy, Barton and Phelan stil commanding prices and respect across the world.

Another Irish Family done good

Another Irish Family done good

The latter day Wine Geese found themselves moving a little further south and one of the great modern Irish vineyards is based in a wonderful little part of Provence. It is called Domaine des Anges and Kilkennyman Gay McGuinness owns it and Dubliner Ciaran Rooney makes the wines, and they have been fantastically received all over the world. They have been very popular in Red Nose Wine since we started taking them in.

Ciaran Rooney

After that rather long winded introduction, what’s the point. I am delighted to announce that Red Nose Wine is having a wine dinner with winemaker Ciaran Rooney on Wednesday November 24th in Befanis Restaurant in Clonmel Co. Tipperary.

Menu

Menu

This promised to be a fantastic night where a menu of fresh in season food will be prepared to match the artisan and organic wines of Domaine des Anges.

Gary Gubbins climbes the hill above Domaine des Anges

Gary Gubbins climbes the hill above Domaine des Anges

For those of you not familiar with the vineyard, it is basically “over the hill” from Chateaneuf du Papes and its Reds reflect the style, especially in its entry level offering. I would suggest the Archange is more like a nothern Rhone in style and the high altitude definetly helps here, but its whites are where the real surprise occurs. Countless critics from Oz Clarke to Jancis Robinson and Tomas Clancy have raved about these wines. I haven’t even told you the best bit. They are fantastically priced and a real bargain from €12.50 up Retail.

Tickets can be purchased from Red Nose Wine or from Befanis, but places are limited and with all the food and wine included for only €45, this could sell out very quickly.

Article – La Dolce Vita a Allegrini

October 1st, 2010

Some more Risotto Sir?

What a week, what a trip, and what an obscene amount of risotto consumed over a short period of time. I am of course talking about my trip to Italy with Liberty Wines, the Italian importer I work with. They brought a handful of their favourite customers to the Veneto area of Italy. This strict selection criteria aside, I still managed to get invited, and I was very quick to respond in the affirmative. I was tempted to register a letter with this acceptance in case they suddenly realised they meant to invite someone else. Either way, I was delighted to go and meet some of the most iconic winemakers in Italy. Over the next few articles I intend to introduce some of these people, their wines, history and their status in the wonderful world of the vine. Our base for most of the trip was Verona, and the regions we visited included Valpolicella, Lugana, Alto Adige, Pressano, Soave and fabled Rosazzo hill within Friuli. I am hopeful that the importer will offer me, and by default you, the consumer, some incentive to showcase these wines. At the very least, you will have a chance to taste them in Red Nose Wine, but I am confident we’ll be able to wrangle an introductory price as well.

For everyone who is feeling a little bit nauseated by my joyous description of this freebie trip, before you run to the local supermarket for a case of industrial wine, you need to know a number of facts. We had to be in Dublin airport for 5.15 in the morning. We went straight to the vines and didn’t let up for the 3 days. The turnaround when we finally got back to the hotel in the afternoon was between 10 and 20 minutes. There were some serious choices to make in the short window. Would it be a shower, a shave or a quick look at the best that Italian TV has to offer? Tick tock, tick tock. The bus is leaving.

 

The 'Wine Gang' entering Palazzo della Torre

The 'Wine Gang' entering Palazzo della Torre

Icons

The first wines I would like to introduce are ones that already have a following in Red Nose Wine. For those of who you know them and for those of you who don’t, let me introduce The Allegrini family from Valpolicella. They have not one but two icon wines, and while I sell La Grola, I only got to taste La Poja for the first time on this visit. If you are going to taste a famous wine for the first time, then why not taste it beside the owner of the vineyard. In this case it was the charming Silvia Allegrini. I had met Silvia at a tasting in Dublin briefly, but it was great to visit the famous vines that make the famous wine.

Silivia Allegrini and her grapes

Silivia Allegrini and her grapes

Is Val Policella named after Val Doonican?

I think a little background into the type of wines we are talking about is called for. Basic Valpolicella is made primarily from the Corvina (but also Rondinella, and Molinara) grape and at its purest will be vibrant and taste of black cherries and have an innate freshness. They are round and supple wines that when done well are very approachable and enjoyable in their youth. Allegrini’s single vineyard wines are not technically part of the DOC, and embrace the freedom of IGT classification. This means that Palazzo della Torre and the iconic La Grola can do as they please and reflect the purest expressions of the vineyards. To go and visit the actual vines makes this statement so much easier to comprehend. As the group stood looking down on the vines from the top the hill after a very winding road, the darkness fell and the temperature dropped. We knew it was time to move this party to the restaurant, and a sleepy little village housed an unassuming eatery whose name escapes me now. You must remember I was up since 4am, having visited and tasted a number of vineyards and was now on my 9th course of food of the day and my 25th different wine. It was a wonder I was still alive. This restaurant’s name is known outside of this village however; as it is here that the River Cafe people (of London restaurant fame) learned how to make fresh pasta all those years ago. The best of the wines were paired with some fantastic food. Even though I was up at a ridiculous hour to catch the flight and was getting tired, it’s not a bad way to spend a Monday.

Dinner with Silvia in the restaraunt with no name

Dinner with Silvia in the restaraunt with no name

The pasta melted in the mouth - fresh as a daisy

The pasta melted in the mouth - fresh as a daisy

Do you dry your grapes?

The true superstar wines of the region are those known as Amarone della Valpolicella. This is a type of wine that many people claim to like, but are unwilling to buy. Also, the wines are made a little differently to normal red wine. As we were there the harvest was in full swing and the some of the grapes were picked. Rather than start fermentation now, the wines are placed on small plastic trays and huge fans are used to dry them in a big warehouse. This goes on until January and the sugars in the grapes are concentrated and a lot of the water is lost – the grapes become raison like. The wines are also aged for a number of years and when eventually released are high in alcohol (but very balanced when done right) and offer bitter sweet chocolate, raisin, dried fig flavours. Bottle aging can help these monsters of wines. Allegrini’s Amarone is regarded as one of the very best. Their other icon wine is a single vineyard Valpolicella known as La Poja. It is 100% Corvina and once again taken out of the DOC. This is an increasing trend among the very best winemakers in France and Italy. Rather than be restricted by ancient rules, they are relinquishing their appellation (or DOC) status and producing wines that they believe best reflect the land.  

The grapes are picked and dried until January

The grapes are picked and dried until January

A Tasting missed ( except by me )

For those of you who would like to taste these wines in the presence of Sylvia Allegrini, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that she is doing a tasting lunch in Ballymaloe House and a dinner in the Cliff House in Ardmore. You will get to hear her describe the wines and you will enjoy them with some top class food. She is passionate about her wines in that wonderful Italian way and you should not miss an opportunity like this. So what’s the bad news you are wondering? Well, by the time the paper comes out on Wednesday, she will be on a plane back to Italy. The tastings are planned for Tuesday September 28th. Don’t worry, if you call into me in Red Nose Wine I will tell you all about it and show you some photos and videos. Also, we will have a very special promotion on the wines. 15% OFF these wines for the week… Hurry up, the bus is leaving. Tick Tock Tick Tock

Allegrini lunchmenu at Ballymaloe House

Allegrini lunchmenu at Ballymaloe House

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine and Silvia Allegrini

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine and Silvia Allegrini

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

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

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

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 Liv-Ex.com, 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.

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

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

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Article – A Room with a View

August 3rd, 2010

The tour continues ( and not a bicycle in sight )

I promise I will not mention France for a number of weeks when this series of articles conclude. It is very difficult to be in the middle of this wine tour and not write about who I meet and the land they work. This is the reason I got into this line of work and what I hope distinguishes me from the commodity wine sellers. I travel to source the wines and sit around the kitchen table with the winemakers. They usually have to wipe their hand in their pants before shaking mine and I appreciate their connection with the land. It’s all about reducing the links in the chain from the land to the ultimate consumer, you. The next time you are picking your wine in the supermarket, ask the assistant about the winemaker’s thoughts on the vintage for the wine you are buying. Irish Americans often talk of searching for a sense of place. I think wine is also searching to express the place it comes from. I am surrounded by completely different wines, people and terroirs where I write this article. This is why I like French wine so much and why up until 15 years ago it was the first choice of much of Europe and the US.

My palate feels itchy – it must be La Clape ( boom boom )

Even though I am technically in one region as I write this (Languedoc), the wines are changing so dramatically over the course of a mile. I was a vineyard yesterday near Narbonne, in a region known as La Clape. An unfortunate name, but very good wine. The vineyard stretched from the gorse hills that sit above the main house, down to the Mediterranean Sea and the style of wine changed dramatically, even with the same grapes. The hills saw very concentrated intense wines that required oak aging and needed food. The vines by the sea were exposed to the wind more and were much softer and fruit driven. 500 yards in distance but a million miles in style.

View through the vines to the Mediterranean Sea

 

 

 

View through the vines to the Mediterranean Sea

A Tipperary – Kilkenny Clash before September

This week I want to tell you about 2 vineyards in particular. One is a wine I already bring in and is owned by an Irish man (from Kilkenny – unfortunate when discussing hurling) and is called Domaine des Anges. In fact you can enjoy it in Befanis restaurant in Clonmel as well as Red Nose Wine. It lies in the shadow of Mount Ventoux, which means the mountain of wind. The vineyard is less than 30 minutes away from another wine village called Chateauneuf du Pape. You may or may not have heard of it, but its wines are well regarded but can be pricey. Domaine des Anges is not pricey at all. Mr. McGuiness offered me a room for the night and while I would have slept anywhere, I got a gorgeous room in his very classic old style Mas. The view was amazing and the shutters halted the morning sun but the breeze was allowed to sneak through into the room. After the heat wave of the Riviera, I was delighted to ignore air conditioning and sleep a peaceful nights rest. Of course this could not be achieved without a long discussion over various bottles of wine with the patron. I would like to tell you I retired to the bed before midnight but I would be lying. There were important matters to discuss, but for the life of me I can’t remember what they were. For the sake of closure, I think it involved Mr. McGuiness promising me the use of his gorgeous house to write my book. For those of you who have similar merry aspirations, there is a fantastic house for rent on the estate, complete with swimming pool and the nearby wine cellar is a plus. We can discuss the rent over a bottle of Domaine des Anges, Red, White or Rose. I should mention that his family were staying there with him and all made me feel very welcome indeed.

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine with Domaine des Anges in the background

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine with Domaine des Anges in the background

The following day I did indeed visit Chateauneuf du Pape, but the day after that I went in search of the next big superstar wine. The morning was spent with a genuine superstar wine, Mas de Daumas Gassac. Those of you who met Samuel Guibert in April will be glad to know his public invite to visit the famous estate still stands.

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine with Samuel Guibert of Mas de Daumas Gassac in France

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine with Samuel Guibert of Mas de Daumas Gassac in France

After my meeting with Samuel I went to meet two winemakers that are being talked about in the same breath as some of the big money Bordeaux wines were 50 years ago. Every major critic the world over is going crazy over a little wine called La Péira. Most of you will not have heard of it as it is mainly talked about within the trade. Suffice to say it is very sought after. I met the winemaker Jérémie Depierre and followed him down a very remote road to an unmarked building in the middle of nowhere. The wine has become so famous so quickly they have not even finished the building and are showing no sign of welcome anywhere. I have been ‘down this road’ before in Bordeaux and it was not worth the hype so I was not getting too excited. Then I tasted the wines. It was one of those wow moments. The entry level wine was spectacular and the middle wine even more so. The main wine itself was actually too complex and until it gets some age in the bottle is virtually undrinkable. In saying that, by the time it gets the necessary age, this wine will have multiplied in price by a huge amount. It is only made in tiny amounts and if I do end up bringing it in, it will be in minuscule amounts and it will be a case of get it while it’s cheap.

Jérémie Depierre of La Péira

Jérémie Depierre of La Péira

As I finish this article on a Saturday night by the sea, the room next to me is playing Otis Reading, “Sittin’ on a Dock of the Bay”. From my Bay, in the south of France, I bid you adieu and if anyone wants more information on any of the wines I mentioned, please call in, and I’ll wax lyrical to the point of boredom. Next is Carcassonne, then Bergerac and then Bordeaux.

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

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

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist July 29 2010

Article – Hollywood and Wine

July 24th, 2010

I am still sweating and writing this article about 5 minutes after coming back from two vineyard visits today in the searing heat. I hear there has been a drop of rain in Ireland but France continues to sizzle. There are only so many times you can change your underpants in one day. Too much information I hear you shout. Anyway, this article will describe a visit I had today with a legend in wine.

John cools off in the heat

John cools off in the heat

Emmanuel Gaujal is the foremost consultant in Provence wine and in particular white wine. He owns a company that consults with other winemakers but his most important client is the very famous Chateau Miraval. I have used the word famous with many vineyards so you might think, “here he goes again”. Why is Miraval famous? Is it because it goes back to pre Roman times or because Pink Floyd recorded their seminal album “The Wall” there? Is it because The Cranberries recorded in the same studio, as well as a lot of other famous artists? Maybe it’s because it was recently purchased by a very famous Hollywood couple who are among the most famous people on the planet, if you are into that type of thing. All of the above is true, but it is also famous for creating a white wine that many regard as the best in France.

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine in Chateau Miraval, Provence

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine in Chateau Miraval, Provence

In advance of the trip I had to send details of my car and the person travelling with me. A rigorous interview at the security gates and we were in, and took the 2km drive to the main house and around the back to the office where an early morning coffee and a discussion on the philosophy of the estate was had in the courtyard. Organic is the order of the day here and very traditional methods are used in parallel with Mr. Gaujal’s many years of expertise. He helped create estates including the original incarnation of Chateau Vignelaure, later made famous again by David O Brien. This part of Provence is not really known for white wine as the hot weather does not make a good bedfellow for the acidity often required in great white wine. However the commune of Correns near Brignols uses its altitude ( a few dodgy bends were manoeuvred to get there ) and microclimate to create a truly exceptional wine. We tasted their Rose ( called Pink Floyd ) before the 3 whites. While the “Lady Jane” is the wine that is technically the most complex, for me the middle wine, Terre Blanche really stole the show. It had supreme balance, acidity and a wonderful expression of fruit. It really impressed me, and also my guest, who usually prefers red wine. At a fraction of the cost of the serious Burgundy wines, I am seriously considering trying it out on the Irish market. I’ll keep you posted. If I get it in, it will be in small amounts, but I will open it for a week in the shop. I can’t promise we will get Brad or Angelina over for a tasting, but you never know.

The Miraval estate covers 2 appelations - Cotes de Provence ( left of road ) and Cotes Varois ( right )

The Miraval estate covers 2 appelations - Cotes de Provence ( left of road ) and Cotes Varois ( right )

After the visit to the Hollywood Hills, we met one of my earliest suppliers, Philippe Guillanton of Chateau Margui for a very long and leisurely lunch. This was followed by a visit to Margui itself and while I have been there a few times, my guest has not, and was suitably impressed. He renovated an old farmhouse from the 18th century and it is a sight to behold. If you are near Provence, and want to visit a vineyard, let me know. Philippe is a most gracious host and his estate will blow you away. Like most of France, Philippe is very excited by the 2009 vintage and i have the white chilling in the fridge as I write. The reds won’t be bottled until next year. I have long waxed lyrical about Philippe and his generosity to me when I started. The fact that his wines are still as popular is testament to his skill as a winemaker and a businessman. Until next time, from the sunny south of France.

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine and Philippe Guillanton of Chateau Margui

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine and Philippe Guillanton of Chateau Margui

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

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

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Article – The water and the wine

July 8th, 2010

The gardeners of the country are rejoicing. The rain has arrived and their plants, vegetables and flowers are well in need of it. I was in college with the founder of GIY, Grow It Yourself, who promote the idea of self sufficiency in the back garden. He has been tweeting this morning about the rain and how welcome it is. Looking out the window into my backgarden, I can tell you that my wife’s spinach is out of control, so the rain did its job. Seeing as I was looking for inspiration on today’s subject, I thought Mick’s tweet was as good a place as any to start. Rain – how important is it to a wine’s quality?

Water is one of the four elements, with fire, earth and air the other three. There is of course a Bruce Willis film about an attractive supermodel from Eastern Europe being the fifth element. There was very little wine in that particular film, so we will dismiss it. By all means, if it comes on TV late at night, take a leaf out of George Hook’s book, and Sky Plus it. You can judge for yourself, but always remember, Sky care; as least that’s what George tells us. I am now well into the second paragraph and I haven’t really talked about wine. Water is a very important component to wine, but seeing that if you spill it on yourself, you will get wet, but this may be fairly obvious. But to assess the impact water has on the lifecycle of the grape and subsequent wine, you need to look at one important factor. Is it a dry vineyard or does it use irrigation. As a rule, the old world is dry and the new world tend to use irrigation, but there are countless wines that dismiss this theory. In fact, there seems to be a growing trend from premium winemakers in the new world towards terroir driven ‘dry’ vineyards. A lot of it stems from the practice of ampelography ( the “wha” is the cry from the back of the church?). As any proficient user of Google will tell you, it is the practice of matching the grape variety to its environment. If this is done correctly, you really shouldn’t need to irrigate the vines. Buyer beware when you see certain grape varieties grown in areas where they really don’t belong. What Mother Nature can’t provide, Uncle Chemistry supplements and Doctor Paracetamol is needed for Father Hangover. As is the wine world’s prerogative, there are of course exceptions and little pieces of land with very different characteristics to its neighbours have been found and miracle wines produced.

A dry vineyard means no irrigation, and a reliance on the weather falling at the right time. In many cases, the lack of regular water puts a stress on the vine, which many people believe is necessary for it to produce it’s best expression of fruit. Think of professional sport, and the shots produced in the heat of battle in golf majors, or the incredible scores found on All Ireland day in hurling. Look at cycling, and drugs or no drugs, the limits those people push their bodies to in the Tour de France is insane. After hours in the mountains, they must then sprint to defend attacks. I have no idea if Lance Armstrong is a nice guy or not, but having read his book and seeing him in his pomp on the Champs Elysee in Paris, he produces his best “fruit” while his body his under severe stress. Other people collapse at this point, and some vines can also collapse under the stress. The dry vineyard people also believe in this stress, so on older vines you will have roots that travel for miles underground in search of water and their fruit is a reflection of this journey as much as it is about the plot of land where the vines are planted. One of my best selling wines is Chateau Margui from Provence and Philippe Guillanton planted apricot trees near his white wine vines. These were young vines so very impressionable and almost immediately took on the flavours of the nearby fruit.

Irrigated vines would be very fruit driven as well, but the characteristics of the grape variety would be stronger here. The fruit tends to be more forward so Cabernet Sauvignon tends to taste of blackcurrant and other typical Cab Sab varieties. They can be jammy ( in hotter climates ) or quite vegetal in cooler climates. They get drip-fed water at appropriate times so never to be under pressure. This begs the question, for vines that are not irrigated, what are the optimal times to get a drop of rain. Ideally, a vineyard will get rain early in the cycle to encourage growth, but a rain towards the end of the cycle can bring on rot, which is not what you want. Excess rain in June can also prevent pollination of the vines flowers. A blast of sunshine in the last month before harvest has been known to save many a vintage. Too much rain at this point and you get big fat juicy grapes, but they are not concentrated. There is too much water and not enough fruit.

I have a personal preference for dry vineyard wines, but there is a strong case for a little bit of help at certain times, when there is a real need to save the harvest. Both Spain and France are reviewing their laws on this, so you may see changes going forward. Life is hard enough for these people, without losing everything to a hot spell at the wrong time. Shrivelled up dehydrated grapes can often result in very concentrated wines, and very often with high levels of alcohol. Climate change is forcing the issue to the table sooner than it might have. When the weather is perfect ( like 2009 was all over France ), the taste of place and character from a traditional wine is a great advert for nature. So, as I finish writing, I look forward to tonight’s home grown spinach and the good weather returning sooner rather than later.

Red Nose Wine are making room for the news wines we have found, and are having a massive sale starting this week. There will be very serious wines and not so serious wines to be had, at clearance prices. Prices start from €3.75.

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

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

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist July 8 2010

Article – The Streets of London

June 3rd, 2010

There is an old Joni Mitchell song that goes, “Sittin’ in a park in Paris France, reading the news and it sure looks bad”. I always thought that it was a cafe she sat in, and not a park. I was sure about it until i finally bought the album. Its funny how you can be 100% sure of something and still be wrong. Maybe it’s a male thing. The news sure looks bad today as I sit in a cafe in Clonmel, Ireland. Our beloved hurling team had a very bad day in the office and I had to drive to Cork this morning ( the day after the match ) to collect wine in the warehouse. The lads in the bond are avid hurling fans and let me have it between the eyes. I would imagine Liam Sheedy will have something more to say this year. At least the weather has picked up and is trying to help us get over it.

London – in search of gold

I put back on my travelling hat these last few weeks. I decided at the very last minute to go to London for the annual wine fair. I got the flight cheap and the hotel even cheaper and said why not. There was so much to see and do over the 2 days I was there that I could probably write 4 articles. We’ll see how this one goes down. I was also at the Wine Australia event held in Croke Park. Will I be back there again this year? Enough hurling references, my French friends are lost. I was told that my articles have a little following in the south of France among a bunch of winemakers. It’s one of those things where they might be laughing with you or at you – I’m not sure. What to talk about in regard to the London Fair is difficult to decide. There really was a huge amount of things to see and taste, and the organisation of the event was top notch. It was very different from the French shows and there was a lot more grouping of regions. For example, Italy came together and sectioned off different regions, so if you were looking for a Pinot Grigio, you could sit down and chat with Veneto winemakers and specify exactly what you were looking for.

Must I drink Bordeaux in the morning

There were also a lot of high end chateau who came together from Bordeaux and I bumped into one of them I knew early on the 2nd day. This was great except for the fact that I now had to taste varying vintages of Bordeaux at 10 o clock in the morning, including barrel samples of the already famous 2009 vintage. It is seen as rude not to taste everyone’s wine so by 11 o clock, I had tasted approximately 40 rich, dry red wines. Normally you would save these wines until the end of the day as they tire out your palate. I had to take a 30 minute break and regain my composure. And people think this is an easy job. It beats engineering anyway.

Meeting the famous folk

A real treat in London was going to a tutored tasting on regional French wines with Tim Atkin of BBC’s Saturday Kitchen. He is one the rare “Master of Wine” recipients and an expert on cheap but good quality regional wines. Basically, he told us about the new rule changes that are coming for the traditional Vins de Pays wines and how they will be more regionally based – more on that to follow. What was particularly satisfying is that at the start of the tasting, he name checked Mas de Daumas Gassac as the pioneers of quality wine from the unheralded areas of France. Those of you who attended our tasting with Samuel Guibert a few months back will have heard him discuss the upcoming changes. The tasting with Tim was a real stamp of approval for what I have been trying to do in terms of finding these kinds of wines. I had a great chat with him afterwards and he is as friendly as you see on the telly. It is always nice when that happens.

Gary Gubbins and Tim Atkin

Gary Gubbins and Tim Atkin

I will return to specific parts of the London show in the future, but now for a Monty Python moment, i.e. something completely different. I am not sure if any of you take the time to read my blog but lately it has really taken off. It is basically an unsanitized version of the article. I recently posted a blog about the whole concept of Bring your own wine to a dinner party or to a BBQ. I raised the point that maybe it is OK to bring a bottle for the house but to have your own bottle to enjoy as well. Why should you have to endure the rubbish wine that happens to be open on the table? Would you force a Guinness drinker to drink Heineken, or give them some cheap and nasty discount beer? The blog caused quite a stir in the blogosphere and please feel free to view or add comments at (www.rednosewine.com/blog)

A quick word of good luck to Kieran Quigley, who has recently taken over the Wine Buff in Clonmel, who have long been another champion of quality independent wines. I look forward to heated debate about both wine and his generous golf handicap.

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

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

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine with Tim Atkin MW

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine with Tim Atkin MW

Article – Italy, you really have a lot of wine

May 27th, 2010

Now and again the wine world and the political world collide, and politics being politics and collisions inevitable, this can mean one can find oneself treated to a wonderful all expenses paid event. One such collision took place in Cork last week, at the very comfortable Clarion Hotel. The Italian Trade Commission are trying to increase awareness of Italian Wine in Ireland, and with the help of Jean Smullen, a well known organiser of marquee wine trade events, they organised a tutored tasting. What is a tutored tasting as opposed to a regular tasting I hear you ask? A fine question, that someone somewhere surely has asked.

A Tasting vs A Tutored Tasting

A regular tasting involves tables full of wine, where everyone supposedly follows a very regimental anticlockwise routine, where we walk around a large hall talking to the importer or the winemakers, while supping and spitting. The true professionals make two trips, the first taking in the whites and the second the reds. I have not always been the true professional in this regard, and I would not suggest tasting a delicate Soave after a big Brunello di Montalcino. Anyway, this tasting was not of that type, for we sat at tables and had a neat array of tasting glasses in front of us. It was like being back at school. The glasses sat upon a mat and were numbered 1 to 6. There was a swarm of bottles to be seen but alas, our glasses were empty. Before the tasting, came the tutoring.

Let The Powerpoint Begin

There was a big screen set up and Helen Coburn, a well know authority on Italian wine, set about a very in-depth and fast as lightening PowerPoint assessment of the white wines of Italy. The range of grapes and regions and rules that are obeyed and rules that are ignored put instant validity to the need for a regional expert such as Helen. When many people think of Italian wines, they think Tuscany or Sicily or maybe the ever popular Pinot Grigio. That’s a fair enough assessment of what is popular in Italian wine, but like many things in life, there is always so much more. We flew through grapes such as Pinot Bianco, Cortese, Garganega, Trebbiano, Verdicchio, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Greco di Tufo, Vermentino, Inzolia and Prosecco with speed and precision. For those planning a wine holiday, the regions included Trentino / Alto Adige, Piedmonte, Veneto, Lombardy, Marche, Umbria, Lazio, Tuscany, Campania, Sardinia and Sicily. So who thought there was only Pinot Grigio in Italy?

Italian Wine Map

Italian Wine Map

There are many other white wine varieties grown in Italy that were mentioned but the varieties above are what we eventually tasted. I have a mass of notes on each wine, and I was happy to see a number of Red Nose Wine selections amongst the mix. We have been working very hard this last year to improve our Italian selection. Our €8.50 Pinot Grigio’s big sales are testament to the fact that the public like what we are doing. Rather than bore you with individual tasting notes on all wines tasted (there are many others who specialise in this), I will list of some of the words scribbled down in the frenzied tasteathon. Creamy, High alcohol, medium acidity, nervy, grassy, yeasty, fresh, good price point, lemon tones, crisp, dry, not enough fruit to the fore, fills the mouth. These of course were for the whites. All wines were spat out.

The Matching of the Food & Wine

After the whites were tasted and rated, we were then invited to partake in a matching of food to wines with Lorenzo Loda, the Italian sommelier from Thorntons Restaurant in Dublin. Little tasting plates were given out, consisting of olive oil, basil, authentic Parmesan cheese, salami and some almond cake. We then were given some Moscato, Gewurztraminer, Brunello de Montalcino and Barbera d’Asti wine. The aromatic Gewurztraminer swamped the olive oil, but was delicious with the basil. The Salami could not stand up to the rich Brunello, but was divine with the Barbera, as was the Cheese. The expensive rich Brunello really needs something like meat to counterbalance it. The Moscato and the cake were a match made in Italian heaven. Some classic Italian Wine – Food pairings include Soave & Risotto; Amarone & Rabbit ; Chianti and Wild Boar ; Verdicchio and Sea Bass to name a few.

Lunch & Parisian Tiramsu

Italian Food

Italian Food

At this point, the little touches of food only made me realise that I was starving, and there was a very Italian lunch laid on, with some classic dishes. I went for two helpings of Lasagne and some Tiramisu. When I lived in Paris, there was a local Italian restaurant that had homemade Tiramisu ( in rue Claude Bernard ) and a guarantee that if it was not the best you ever tasted, you didn’t pay for it. All I can say is that I always paid for it, and will on my next visit. The Cork version was nice, but I can still taste that Paris one. Mind you, in Clonmel we are spoiled for Tiramisu. Both Catalapa and Befanis have delicious versions.

The famous @Grapes_of_Sloth aka Paul Kiernan

The famous @Grapes_of_Sloth aka Paul Kiernan

The Mighty Reds of Italy ( as opposed to Manchester )

Anyway, full up and weary, I still had to face the biggest challenge of the day. The rich reds which made Italy famous. It was obvious that the Italian Trade Commission were footing the bill because they really opened up some special bottles. Pinot Nero, Lagrein, Teroldego, Nebbiolo, Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara, Sangiovese, Brunello di Montalcino ( Sangiovese clone), Montepulciano, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Allianico, Negroamaro, Primitive Salento, Nero d’Avola and even that old favourite Cabernet Sauvignon were all on show. The superstar regions like Barolo, Barberesco, Chianti Classico and Brunello stood side by side with the Lagrein and Lunelli wines of Trentino / Alto Aldige. The feast finally came to an end and I came out of the tasting a lot more knowledgeable than when I went in. I think that is one of the things that I really like about wine. While you might hold some assumption of knowledge on a particular area or variety, but there is still so much more to learn. Humility and the lack of assumption are two traits that I have found invaluable as I search for new wines. For anyone who wants to try these different Italian varieties ( or the traditional classics ), we have a very good range in stock, at all price points. You are more than welcome to visit and taste. The Italians have a wonderful saying, and Fellini made a film based on the saying, “La Dolce Vita”. In these trying times, we all need a little of the sweet life.

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

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

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist May 27 2010

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist May 27 2010

BYOB – Etiquette Debate

May 22nd, 2010

A BlogPost that asks the hard questions about BYOB wine etiquette.
When you go to a house party, it is customary to bring a bottle of wine; in fact it may even be requested on the invitation. As a wine merchant, I think that is a great idea. However, this can lead to a delicate issue rearing its unsocial head. What I refer to is the social acceptance ( or not ), of bringing a bottle for the house and a bottle for yourself. I like wine, and have developed a taste for a certain quality of wine over the years. I know there are certain wines that I can drink without food that will have no ill effects the next morning. So, when I go to a party I bring one of each, a bottle to be placed on the table for the masses to attack, but also, a bottle for myself.

BYOB

This is the bottle which I and I alone get to drink. In the same way someone else might bring a six pack of Corona, because that is their tipple of choice, I like to bring a nice Provence or Rhone Valley Red. However, this seems to mortify my wife who says I should drink whatever is open instead of opening my own one and getting stuck in.

Why should I pretend to drink a wine that will, for the most part, be undrinkable? To the eternal despair of the independent wine merchant, the modern household tends to buy all its weekly needs in foreign owned supermarkets and proceed to drop the wine into the trolley along with the ham, cheese and tomatoes. There is usually an offer to get you shopping and as the independent wine merchants source the world for true value, it is the discounted rubbish that finds its way into many a household. I wouldn’t mind if they bought something bloody decent from the supermarket. At least people are too embarrassed to ask me my opinion on their great wine find. As Doc Holliday said to Wyatt Earp in Tombstone, “My hypocrisy goes only so far”. Indeed Sir.

A number of very near misses with the old fashioned wing style corkscrews ( which are useless ) has led me to recently start bringing my own corkscrew. I haven’t yet reverted to bringing my own glass, but have not ruled it out either. So, I ask you, am I being unreasonable and do I need to take yet another long hard look at myself? All comments and opinions welcome.

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”