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Coravin – keeping wine fresh indefinitely

I went to the launch of Coravin in Ireland yesterday – a revolutionary pouring device that has been the talk of the wine world over the last few years. Founder Greg Lambrecht was there to give a very persuasive argument in favour of his system over anything else that has gone before. He is obviously a very bright guy, working as a nuclear engineer before starting several companies that invented new medical devices. Lambrecht became frustrated when his wife was pregnant. A wine-lover since his teenage years, he couldn’t drink an entire bottle of wine every night over dinner. Besides ideally he wanted a glass of white wine, then one of red, and possibly a glass of dessert wine too. And so he started off on a twelve-year process that was eventually to lead to Coravin. Having contacts in the medical world proved very useful; the Coravin uses a fine Teflon-coated needle and high quality argon gas.

Greg Lambrecht and the Coravin

Greg Lambrecht and the Coravin

‘We remove the best wine preserver – a cork – to get at the wine’, says Lambrecht. ‘But what if we didn’t have to? I wanted to be able to drink whatever glass of wine I felt like, and then move on to something else. I wanted to try six different wines if the mood took me.’ He focused on how to extract the wine without introducing any oxygen. The upshot is a very smart small piece of equipment that looks a little like a microscope. It has clamps to grip the bottle, a long thin needle that goes through the cork, and a capsule of argon gas that automatically replaces the wine as you pour out the desired quantity through a spout. Once you remove the needle, the cork springs back to reseal itself. It doesn’t work on screw caps and with difficulty on plastic corks, but apparently does on DIAM and composite corks. Coravin claims the wine will remain fresh for months if not years.

There are other wine-preservation systems such as the Enomatic, but that is expensive and works best for multiple bottles; good for restaurants but not practical for home use. The Vacu-Vin and related Verre de Vin systems work for a short period. Nothing else performs for as long or as reliably as the Coravin promises. If it works it will be a real boon for a wine enthusiast; imagine being able to pour a glass of you’re a particular fine wine, reseal it and then try it again six months later. It will certainly offer great opportunities for lovers of vintage port and dessert wines; you really only ever want a glass or two after dinner. It should allow restaurants to offer a huge range of wines by the glass without fear of being left with an opened bottle that is rapidly oxidising. It could also allow wine shops to offer their customers multiple samples before they buy. And does it work? Well Jancis Robinson and Robert Parker are both big fans. Ch. Margaux uses it to test their wines before sending them abroad for tastings. At the launch we tried four wines before the bottles were sealed again. Apparently we will be invited back in three months to see how the wines are faring. I was also promised a trial model to use at home. I will keep you posted!

The Coravin Credit: Paul Sherwood

The Coravin
Photo: Paul Sherwood

The Coravin is distributed by Findlaters WS, and is available through various retail shops including Jus de Vine, Redmonds and O’Briens for €299. A replacement capsule costs €19.99 and will work for around thirty glasses of wine.



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Two of my favourite Austrian wine producers were in Dublin this week conducting tastings and holding dinners with people from The Corkscrew. I got to one in Thornton’s. Some great wines.


Fritz Wieninger and Johannes Hirsch

Fritz Wieninger and Johannes Hirsch


Fritz Wieninger has 35 hectares of vines up in the hills surrounding Vienna. His family ran a heurige, a Viennese tradition of winery/pub/wine bar that offers wine by the glass or bottle along with some food. Fritz has taken the winemaking side into a different league and is today the best producer in Vienna and one of the greatest in Austria.

We tried several of his ‘Gemischter Satz’, wines made from a field blend of many different grape varieties. This is another Viennese tradition. The first, from several vineyards, was a delicious fresh spring-like glass of wine; the sort that makes you want another sip, and then another – the kind of thing you would love to come across in a Heurige. The second from his Nussberg vineyard, reckoned to be the finest site in Vienna, was altogether more serious, a rich concentrated wine with lovely mineral traces too. We then moved on to his Nussberg Riesling 2013, a wonderful pure textured wine with racy green fruits and excellent length.

Later in the tasting (the two winemakers tic-tacked) we returned to Wieninger’s Chardonnay Select 2013, his Trilogie (Zweigelt/Merlot/Cabernet) and his Pinot Noir Select. Apparently he made his name in Austria with these three wines. I enjoyed the Chardonnay, but was less impressed with the two reds; possibly the Viennese prefer this style and have too many great white wines from others? Good wines but I thought the first three white wines were the standouts.

Kevin Thornton's Smokin' Scallops

Kevin Thornton’s Smokin’ Scallops



I have been visiting the Hirsch stand at Vievinum, the great biennial Austrian wine fair, for many years now. I have a soft spot for the Kamptal anyway – the more elegant refreshing style is right up my street, and the region boasts some of Austria’ greatest producers – Scloss Gobelsburg, Bründlmayer, Loimer, Jurtschitsch and others besides. I have always put Johannes Hirsch right up there with the very best, and it is great to see his wines return to Ireland after a few years absence.


At the tasting we worked our way through three vintages of his Zöbinger Gaisberg Riesling, one of his two great single vineyard Rieslings. The 2008 and 2009 were very good and very different in style, with a little more residual sugar, but the 2010 was the star wine of the entire day, a youthful but beautifully structured wine with distinctive flavours of orange peel and juice, a refreshing acidity and wonderful length.


Three 2013 Grüner Veltliners, from three different vineyards were fascinating, but here the Lamm was a real star. Hirsch has 33 hectares of vines. He was one of the first to put his wines under Stelvin (screw-cap) and says one Austrian magazine asked his readers to boycott his wines for this crime! As a result he suggests decanting his wines before serving to allow them develop.



I would certainly love a few bottles of the Wieninger Gemischter Satz 2014 for €17.50, and the excellent Nussberg Riesling €28.50 seems very reasonably priced.

The Corkscrew has the Hirsch Riesling Gaisberg and the Grüner Veltliner Lamm from 2013, both for €47.95 – expensive but well worth it, and a match for most burgundy at the same price or more. The Riesling Zöbing 2013 at €24.95 would serve as a very good introduction to the house.

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Just published a book in conjunction with the Irish Times. So far sales going very well. Available online from the Times, good bookshops, and a few wine shops around Dublin too.


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 Wagner-Stempel Rosé 2013, Rheinhessen, Germany


This is a delicious rosé; wonderful subtle red cherry fruits and a lip-smacking dry finish. A mere 12% alcohol and dangerously moreish.

Daniel Wagner-Stempel, who visited Ireland recently, is one of the most highly regarded young wine producers in Germany today. Based in the less-fashionable Rheinhessen region, he fashions a series of exotic, fruit-filled   white and red wines.

Stockists: Wicklow Wine Co.; The Corkscrew, Chatham St.; Searsons, Monkstown.



 Sipp Mack Rosé d’Alsace 2013 13%


In a similar vein to the Wagner-Stempel above, this is a delightful, elegant, fragrant, raspberry-scented rosé with good acidity and a long dry. By the way, Mitchells also have a delicious, more full-bodied Côtes du Rhône rosé  from Domaine Brusset for €15.49.

Alsace tries very hard to make red wine from Pinot Noir. In many cases the wines are little too light and acidic. However, Pinot noir can make excellent rosé and perhaps this is what Alsace should make with this variety.

Stockists: Mitchell & Son, CHQ, IFSC & Glasthule,


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Going Pink

‘Neither fish nor fowl’ one of my former bosses would say of rosé wines. I knew what he meant; a rosé is either a white wine trying to be red, or a red wine that didn’t quite make the grade. But rosé deserves more than that. Properly made, it is one of the great hot weather drinks, refreshing, thirst quenching but still frivolous. It is not really a wine to write about; it is there to drink and enjoy. I enclose four possible options tow under €15 and two over; the last two, made from Pinot Noir, are in my favourite style; fragrant, light and dry.

 Delheim Pinotage Rosé 2013, Stellenbosch 12.5%

€12.99 or two for €19.40

Ample rounded fresh strawberry fruits with clean crisp acidity; a great all-purpose wine for whenever the sun comes out or as a summer party wine.

Delheim is one of my favourite South African producers, mainly because they don’t try to hard with their wines. Family-owned and run, they produce a series of well-made fruit-driven wines at very keen prices. O’Briens have  been importing them for many years. I am not a huge fan of Pinotage but it seems it can make very good rosé wines.

Stockists: O’Briens


Mirabeau 2013, Côtes de Provence 13%

€15.99 or two for €23.98

This is a very tasty modern exuberant ripe fruit-filled rosé that would suit any summery occasion, indoors or out.

This is part of a rather complicated but very successful rosé promotion that O’Briens are running all summer, whereby you buy two bottles and get the second at ½ price – which means 25% off, I think? In any case, this wine  is made by an English/German couple who moved from London to Provence seeking the good life. They have been hugely successful in gaining publicity and in making very gluggable rosé .

Stockists: O’Briens


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I am just back from a trip to Vienna and therefore full of the joys of Austrian wines. Austria makes some great white wines and increasingly good red wines. As a small country with small producers, it will never produce really cheap wines, but the overall standard is remarkably high. These are two of my all-time favourite Austrian producers.


   Bründlmayer Kamptaler Riesling Terrassen 2013



  Willi Bründlmayer is one of Austria’s greatest winemakers. He produces a string of wines, some very good others brilliant, but always interesting. The Kamptaler Riesling is a wonderful racy wine with lively      refreshing citrus and green fruits and a long dry mineral finish. A perfect aperitif or with all manner of fish, chicken and pork dishes.


Stockists: Greenacres, Wexford





  Moric Blafränksich, Burgenland 2012



This is one of my all-time favourite wines, one that I beg people to try before dismissing Austrian red wines. Made from the local Blaufränkisch grape by one the greatest producers in Austria, this is a deliciously    light piquant elegant wine with clean dark cherry and blueberry fruits. Try it with roast pork or chicken.


Stockists: On The Grapevine, Dalkey (; No. 1 Pery Square, Limerick; Market 57, Westport, Mayo; Cabot & Co. Westport, Mayo (; Morton, Galway; McCambridges, Galway.


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  Blauer Zweigelt 2013, Winzer Krems



I didn’t have high hopes for this wine prior to tasting it, as inexpensive Austrian wine is frequently disappointing. However, I opened it last night and was very pleasantly surprised; lovely supple, lively, fresh, clean red  cherry and blueberry fruits. This would make for great summer drinking served cool. Sadly it was shipped to Ireland very recently so distribution isn’t great for the moment.


Stockists: Karwig Wines, Carrigaline





 The Exquisite Collection Picpoul de Pinet 2013



I find wine tastings at both Lidl and Aldi tend to consist of a large number of very average unexciting wines with the occasional howler and a few wines that stand out as really good value. The Picpoul above is  one of the latter; fresh easy plump pear fruits, good acidity and a decent finish. Perfect for everyday drinking.


Stockists: Aldi

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Two Summer Classics

Two lighter fresher wines for this lovely warm sunny weather. Both are well-known names that are under-valued.

 Fleurie Domaine de la Madone 2012 €18.49

I love good Beaujolais but these days the best wines all seem to cost more than €20. I was therefore delighted to come across this delicious Fleurie at such a great price.  It has wonderful fresh aromas and concentrated but light juicy strawberry fruits, with a lip-smacking lingering finish. This is a light wine (13% alcohol and no tannins) so you could drink without food, but I would recommend it with anything porky, especially charcuterie, or chicken. I rarely drink wine during the day, but this would fit into that wonderful category of ‘luncheon wine’.

Stockists: Mitchell & Son, Glasthule, IFSC, Andreson’s Foodhall, Glasnevin, Dublin 9.

Ch. du Coing de St. Fiacre 2011 Muscadet de Sèvre & Maine €15.35

Yes Muscadet! Those of a certain age will remember how fashionable Muscadet was back in the 1980’s, when it was served at every event. Sadly the quality went downhill and we moved on to Chardonnay and then Sauvignon Blanc. Good Muscadet is one of the most delicious wines, light in alcohol, crisp and dry, with subtle green fruits. I love its purity of flavour and ability to improve with every sip. Drink it as the locals would, with a large bowl of mussels or a plate of fresh Irish oysters. This is the perfect example; light plump green fruits shot through with a zesty lemony acidity.

Stockists: Dicey Reilly Ballyshannon; Redmonds, Ranelagh; Le Caveau, Kilkenny;

World Wide Wine Waterford; Mac Guinness, Dundalk; Baggot Street Wines; Corkscrew, Chatham St.; Fallon and Byrne, Exchequer St.; Listons, Camden St.

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Two Affordable Summer Wines

Joel Delaunay Sauvignon Blanc 2013

€11.99 down from €14.99 for the month of June


Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley tends to be a little lighter and less aromatic than those from New Zealand or Chile. This is not a bad thing in my book. This wine has subtle floral aromas and fresh zesty clean green fruits. Perfect to drink by itself or with salads and fish dishes, this is very gluggable summer drinking.

Stockist: O’Briens


Henri Norduc Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Pays d’Oc


I am not always a fan of Cabernet Sauvignon from the south of France; most of the time I prefer wines made from the more local Syrah, Grenache and Carignan. This however stood out in a line-up of inexpensive Cabernets from around the world. An attractive warm climate Cab with very tasty juicy ripe blackcurrant fruits and a lightly spicy finish. A real bargain at €11.

Stockists: Le Caveau, Kilkenny; Ballymaloe at Brown Thomas, Cork; The Corkscrew, Chatham St.

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English sparkling wine has been making headlines for a number of years now. Leaving aside the understandable national pride of some U.K. journalists (every country suffers from it) there are some seriously good English sparkling wines – at fairly serious prices too. The success, Irish winemaker Dermot Sugrue reckons, is partly down to low yields enforced by the climate. Limerick-born Sugrue makes a number of excellent sparkling wines for Wiston Estate on the South Downs and for his own label Sugrue Pierre (his wife is a Pierre). All of the wines are made from one or more of the classic Champagne grapes. For the recent Wine Geese tasting held in the Ballymaloe pop-up shop in Brown Thomas Cork, Dermot brought over the Wiston Rosé a delicious strawberry-scented dry wine that I would prefer to many a Champagne. We also tasted his delicious Sugrue Pierre sparkling dry white called ‘The Trouble with Dreams’. This is an impeccably made elegant balanced wine, with a wonderful purity of sophisticated pristine fruit, a toastiness that comes through once opened a few minutes, and a lip-smacking clean dry finish. The 2010 vintage (sadly sold out) garnered ninety-six points, the highest ever score for an English sparkling wine, in the latest edition of Decanter magazine. Let us hope some enterprising Irish importer manages to bag a few cases of Wiston or Sugure Pierre– they deserve a place on our shelves – possibly as the best Irish wine? Or does that honour go to Simon Tyrrell with his two excellent Côtes du Rhône? We also tasted these at the Brown Thomas tasting.

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