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A refreshing red form the Loire.

Domaine de la Renaudie Cabernet 2010, Touraine

12% €13.95

Possibly a bit expensive for an everyday wine, but I bought myself a half-dozen bottles of this recently and have been motoring through it at an alarming rate. It hits all the right buttons for me; first of all it is refreshing, and makes you want to have another sip, and then a second glass; it is light enough to enable you to do this without keeling over; and lastly it tastes great, with supple fresh blackcurrant fruits and a clean tannin-free finish. The perfect mid-week pick-me-up to have with dinner. The Chenin Blanc (see pic.) is pretty good too.

Stockists: ; Wicklow Arms Delgany; On the Grapevine, Dalkey; 64 wine, Glasthule


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Henschke Julius Riesling 2006, Eden Valley, Australia

One of the greatest Australian Rieslings I have tasted was a Henschke Julius Riesling 1997. It had wonderful mature fruit with a lovely streak of mineral acidity. This wine is not quite in the same class yet, but may get there given a few years ageing. At the moment it has light floral aromas, with crisp mineral citrus and green fruits on the palate, finishing dry. At the reduced price, it is a real bargain. I will certainly be heading off to Donnybrook Fair to buy a few bottles, and would recommend you do the same.

€16.99 down from €29.99 at Donnybrook Fair for their ‘spring clean’ sale.

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Easter Alternatives

When tasting at home, I usually taste blind (and then ‘seen’ afterwards) and try to taste a group of 6-8 similar wines at the same time. My backlog of wines had been building up, and after two days of very disappointing tastings, I really wasn’t looking forward to tasting still more wine. I understand this is not a complaint that many people understand, but tasting a series of well-made, but uninteresting wines night after night tires very quickly. Last night I found five wines supplied for a ‘Something different for Easter’ article which never materialised. We had nothing for dinner, so I bought a shoulder of lamb from my local butcher, which I roasted. Not only was the lamb magnificent – tender and full of flavour, but three of the wines were really enjoyable and each went very nicely with the lamb. So, three very different wines, each good in their own way, and perfect with Easter lamb. I also tasted a few white wines, and really enjoyed a Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley, pert of the Superquinn wine sale currently running.

J. Mourat ‘Sacré Blanc’ Chenin Blanc 2010

Fresh honey and quince on nose and palate, with good acidity and pretty decent length. A really enjoyable interesting wine at a great price.

€11.99 down to €9 for the Superquinn Spring French Wine Sale

Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2009

Light violets and red cherries on the nose; light sweet fruit with good acidity; very pleasant and refreshing, with a nice earthy note on the finish. A very Italian wine that went very nicely with the lamb.

€14.50-14.95 from Fallon & Byrne, Exchequer St; Baggot Street Wines; 64Wine, Glasthule; Wicklow Arms, Greystones; Deveneys, Rathmines; Corkscrew, Chatham St.; Nectar Wines, Sandyford; Hargadons, Cabinteely.

Castello di Potentino 2005, Montecucco Rosso

Sweet ripe cherry nose with an earthy note; on the palate, sweet old-style Italian, with tea and liquorice flavours alongside the mature sweet fruit; possibly not the most polished, with some drying tannins on the finish. Possibly tiring a little, but a wine of real character and I really liked it – great with the lamb too.

€14.10 from

Domaine des Hauts Châssis, Cuvée Esquisse 2010

Forward clean dark fruits on the nose; sweet and savoury at the same time, with cool just-ripe dark cherries, and a light savoury kick, and a touch of tobacco; no great concentration or structure, but a very pleasant wine for drinking now.

€19.95 from , The Vineyard Galway; On The Grapevine, Dalkey.

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Bourgogne Rouge 2010 Les Coteaux des Anges
€8 or 3 for €20

Lovers of Burgundy should head straight to Superquinn for this delightful Pinot Noir – light and refreshing with smooth easy cherry fruits. Given that it is not easy to find any drinkable red Burgundy at under €10, this is a real bargain.

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Below a range of really interesting off-beat wines that I tasted for a recent article in The Irish Times. Sadly I am limited to four wines each week, so I thought I would include the remainder here. All were tasted blind.


Cistus Branco Reserva 2009, Douro

Not much on the nose; crisp pithy stone fruits, bone dry with some quince. A pleasant wine with a bit of character. 11/20

Stockists: Mitchell & Son, IFSC and Glasthule.

Quinta da Lixa 2010, Vinho Verde

A little fiz when you pour, as is traditional with Vinho Verde; lifted tropical fruit and pear aromas; light crisp and fresh with apple and grapefruit. A mouth-watering wine with lots of zip. This would be great as an aperitif or with slighter seafood. The Muscadet of Portugal? Very good value. 11.5/20

Imported by Grace Campbell. Email for local stockists.

Provia Régia Premium 2010, Bucelas

Rich pear and peach aromas, with a touch of bananas too; light, but this carries quite a bit of fruit, ripe peaches shot through with lemon zest and grapefruit; Very stylish fresh wine. 13/20

Imported by Grace Campbell. Email for local stockists.

Morgado de Sta. Catherina Reserva 2008

Arinto fermented and aged in new French oak. A much deeper colour, with broad spice, cloves and some peach fruits. Good acidity too. This would appeal to those who enjoy oaky wines. I prefer slightly less spice. Good wine though. 12/20

Imported by Grace Campbell. Email for local stockists.

Antão Vaz de Peceguina

A lightly floral nose; medium-bodied with a nice creamy texture, spiced apples and pears, with lovely clean length. This is a really well-made modern wine, bearing some similarity to a white Burgundy. 14.5/20

Imported by Grace Campbell. Email for local stockists.


Quinta do Cardo, Beria Interior, 2009

Is this the Portugese version of Beaujolais? It has light fresh raspberry and redcurrant fruits, tangy and lively, with a dry slightly raspy finish. Different and possibly not a crowd pleaser, but I really enjoyed it with dinner later – it is certainly a food wine. 11.5/20

Imported by Grace Campbell. Email for local stockists.

Grilos 2008 Dão

Light violets on the nose; a very good food wine with nice acidity, no real tannins, and pleasant smooth easy dark damson fruits; no huge concentration but an appealing good everyday wine, of the sort I really enjoy. 12.5/20

Wicklow Wine Company 0404 66767 for stockists.

Quinta do Cachão 2009, Douro

Relatively light fruits, cooler with good acidity and no rough edges, although a nice earthy savoury touch. This went down very nicely with roast pork for dinner. 11.5/20

Karwig Wines , email for local stockists.

Dom Rafael, Mouchão 2009, Vinho Regional Alentejano

Mouchão is one of the historic wineries of Portugal, owned by the Reynolds family since the mid-nineteenth century, (with a brief interlude during the revolution in 1974). The flagship wine, just called Mouchão is serious stuff indeed, and well worth trying out. There are also a few special cuvées which I tasted on a visit there a few years back. The Dom Rafael is made to be drunk earlier. This is a fairly powerful structured wine with serious chewy ripe dark fruits, well-integrated tannins and very good concentration. A great winter wine with real character to serve with stews or red meats. 14/20

Paulo Laureano Clássico 2009, Vinho Regional Alentejano

This had a funky slightly animal edge to the dark plum aromas and some spice too; on the palate earthy meaty warm fruits and no real tannins. A rustic wine but pleasant with a slight tarriness too. Warming wine and very well-priced too. 12/20

For stockists, contact Mitchell & Son, IFSC and Glasthule. 01 2302301/01 6125540.

Paulo Laureano Permium 2008, DOC Alentejo

A medium to full-bodied wine with some new oak, but a nice distinctive cool plum character, nice loose tannic structure; a very well-made wine. There is very good quality fruit on the centre-palate. It opened out, and seemed to take on weight after a while into a fairly big swarthy wine that I really enjoyed. 13/20

For stockists, contact Mitchell & Son, IFSC and Glasthule.

Herdade dos Grouse Vinho Regional Alentejano
€16.99 but on special at €12.99 in Fresh Outlets and La Touche Wines, Greystones

This was very different in style to the other wines; very modern, with svelte ripe rich classy fruits, and plenty of spicy new oak. There is good concentration too and quite noticable alcohol.
A very appealing commercial style, almost Europe meets Australia with a Portugese twist. 13/20

Imported by Grace Campbell. Email for local stockists.

Quinta dos Aciprestes 2007, Douro

Savoury blackcurrant and wet-stone on the nose; somehow less structured than I expected, with sweet ripe strawberries, a real earthy maturity, a decent whack of alcohol but it seems in balance. It improved with time, developing a pleasing swarthiness. Nice wine. 12/20

Imported by Grace Campbell. Email for local stockists.

Casa de Santar 2008, Dão

Light pure dark cherry aromas; a really attractvie wine with clean morello and plum fruits a lovely light acidic kick at the end, good persitence and a dry finish. Yummy.14/20

Wicklow Wine Company 0404 66767 for stockists.

Munda 2008, Dão

This is serious stuff; warm ripe dark fruits and dark chocolate on the nose. A structured young wine with a masses of tight dark fruits, distinctive dark chocolate, and excellent length. Very nicely balanced, if a bit young. Decant before serving, or keep a year or two, but well worth the money.

Imported by Grace Campbell. Email for local stockists.

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Mr. Amarone

A range of great Amarone going back twenty three years.

Mr. Amarone, Sandro Boscaini, president of Masi, specialists in all things appassimento, put on a great tasting this afternoon. It was Sandro’s father who first dreamt up the idea of Ripasso in the late 1950’s, making the first commercial vintage in 1964. Some years later, he offered the name to the local Chamber of Commerce, thus allowing other producers to use the term. He is not entirely happy with the current standards (some use the dried grapes three times – the result he says is a bit like a teabag; it gets lighter each time). However we were tasting Amarone. We tried eight wines, including six of the Masi Costasera, their ‘standard’ Amarone, and two vintages of Serègo Alighieri Vaio Amaron, from the ancient estate of the family of Dante Alighieri. It was a really good reminder that high alcohol wines can be perfectly balanced; also that Amarone, a much abused name, is a great wine. Some really good, and two absolutely stunning wines.


 Masi Costasera Amarone 2007

Young, intensely fruity wine, plums, baked fruit and spices. Good acidity, good length; a very good young wine. 14.5/20


Masi Serègo Alighieri Vaio Amaron Amarone 2005

Deeper in colour with pure dark chocolate, coffee and intense ripe dark fruits and vanilla; tannic and long, hugely concentrated. A very impressive young wine, which will only improve. 17.5/20

 Masi Costasera Amarone 2000

Starting to show some mature notes of tea and prunes, but still has some very attractive primary cherry fruits too. Savoury, long and very stylish wine. 16.5/20

 Masi Costasera Amarone 1998

Brown sugar on the nose; soft savoury liquorice flavours – tea, prunes and chocolate too; the alcohol stuck out a little at first, but it opened out very nicely, with a good bitter finish. 16.5/20

 Masi Costasera Amarone 1995

A slightly dirty nose initially, which blew off after a bit. Old woody, mint and figs, but a little vegetal too. Good, but not my favourite. 13.5/20

 Masi Serègo Alighieri Vaio Amaron Amarone 1995

A stunning wine of great power, complexity and balance. Big savoury plums soy, liquorice, cassis and hints of mint; changes all the time in the glass. Huge concentration, a lovely long bitter finish. 18.5/20

 Masi Costasera Amarone 1993

Hard to follow the wine above, and this was fine, but probably starting to fade a little; stewed tea, herbs, some soft prunes and a leafy note. Elegant and enjoyable. 16.5/20

 Masi Costasera Amarone 1988

I thought this was past it at first, but it opened out beautifully to reveal wonderful mature flavours of grilled hazelnuts, stewed fruits and raisins. Lovely sweet-sour flavours. 17/20


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Just returned from a cellar tasting at Ely Wine Bar, run mainly for the various sommeliers who work there, plus a few wine scribes. We tasted 20 wines, including a number of 2006 Bordeaux; Cos d’Estournel and Pape-Clement both outshone Léoville-Lascases for the moment, two excellent wines still in their youth. Also, a brilliant Bollinger Vieilles Vignes 1998. However the stars for me were two Burgundies, one red, one white and a quartet of Rhônes.

 Beaune Blanc ‘Aigrots’ 2005 Domaine Lafarge €69 in Ely

Wonderful white wine, reminiscent of a really good Hautes Côtes, rather than a Côte d’Or, with grilled nuts, whiteflowers and wet-stones. Lovely firm acidity and excellent length. 16/20


Volnay 2005 Domaine Lafarge €75 in Ely

A beautiful subtle fragrant floral nose; very firm and acidic on the palate, with a green touch (from the stems?) allied to lovely maturing red cherry fruits, and great length. Lovely wine that will develop a further 5 years or more. 16/20


The two red Châteauneuf were poles apart; a big meaty, earthy, tarry Domaine Pegau 1998, and a wonderful pure elegant Clos des Papes 2008, 15% alcohol but perfectly balanced, very long and intensely flavoured.


St. Joseph Cuvée du Papy, Domaine du Monteillet 2008 €59 in Ely

Wonderful fragrant, almost Burgundian nose; elegant delightful pure sweet/savoury dark cherry fruits. A special wine to seek out. 16.5/20

 Cornas ‘Brise Cailloux’ 2006 Domaine du Coulet

A superb just-ripe savoury nose of plums; masses of tight, concentrated ripe dark fruits, a mineral streak, and excellent length. Needs a year or two, but brilliant wine. 17/20



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I helped host a Riesling/Pinot Noir class yesterday afternoon, part of a course Wine Australia are running for sommeliers. The idea is to boost knowledge and therefore sales of Australian wine in our restaurants. As John McDonnell put it to the class, one out of every four bottles of wine sold inIreland is Australian, but we lag behind in restaurant sales. Apparently the same is true almost worldwide. Do we all change our drinking habits once we enter a restaurant? Do we become more conservative, or is it that few restaurants offer the comfort of a well-known brand?

I was partnered by Dave Palmer of Skillogalee winery in theClareValley. For me, and I think for most there, the Rieslings were the highlight of the night. The 2010 Skillogalee Riesling was a wonderful young wine, brimming with crisp ripe fruits, and a fine mineral edge. I can see how it beat 100+ other Rieslings in a recent Decanter tasting. The other highlight was a 2004 Clare Valley Riesling from O’Leary Walker (available from Thomas Woodberry in Galway, and others probably too) a super example of how this variety can mature. I also really enjoyed the youthful Plantaganet Riesling from Great Southern region and may stash away a couple of bottles. The bargain of the night was the Tim Adams Clare Valley Riesling, beginning to show some maturity, with excellent concentration, and available for around €10 in Tesco. Overall, it confirmed to me that the ClareValley produces some great Riesling (although EdenValley isn’t bad either), all exhibiting a real terroir, and capable of ageing. They all come in screw-cap too, great for reliability.

We only tasted five Pinots; I was impressed with the De Bertoli Windy Peak Pinot Noir, which has improved no end over the last few years. However, I am not sure it would stand up to wines of a similar price from Chile or New Zealand though. The same goes for the Innocent Bystander Pinot. Ozzie Pinot is still a work in progress.

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Trimbach Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile 2004, Alsace



Trimbach is one of the very best producers of Alsace; their greatest wine, Clos Sainte Hune is virtually impossible to get hold of these days. However, savvy wine-drinkers know that the Cuvée Frédéric Emile Riesling is also a brilliant wine and at a third of the price, a bit of a bargain. Certainly it ages more reliably than most serious white Burgundy, and again is cheaper. I had the opportunity to taste a half-dozen vintages with Jean Trimach last year, and bought a case of the excellent 2002. The current vintage, the 2004, will probably be every bit as good. It has a perfect balance of sophisticated green fruits, mineral acidity, and a wonderful lingering finish. On my last visit, Greenacres in Wexford had ½ bottles on sale, perfect for two with a starter. 18.5/20


Stockists: Mitchell & Son, IFSC and Glasthule; Gaynors, Dublin 8; Kellys, Clontarf; Sweeneys, Glasnevin; Greenacres, Wexford; Cheers, Stillorgan; Superquinn ; Ardkeen, Waterford.


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I am frequently asked what the next ‘big thing’ in wine will be. I do think that we in this country are slowly moving back towards the old world in terms of style, but there is one giant that has yet to really make it in Ireland and elsewhere. Argentina is the world’s fifth largest wine producer. Largely populated by Italian and Spanish immigrants, it has a wine culture going back almost five hundred years. Until recently, it had its own individual style of wine, aged in oak for long periods, which was distinctly lacking in fruit to European palates. However, it was very popular at home, where over 90% of the market lay (Argentina is still the world’s eighth largest consumer of wine). It was only in the late 1980’s that the wine industry began to look seriously at the export market, and helped by the devalued peso, began producing high quality richly fruity wines that made the world take notice.

Argentina has a lot to offer, so it is surprising that it has not had a greater impact on our tastes. The quality of wine has improved dramatically, and prices are very competitive. Yet my local supermarket has only a few shelves devoted to Argentina compared to a huge array from Chile, Australia and South Africa. One problem it does have is a lack of Sauvignon, currently the most fashionable grape variety. There are a few decent examples on the Irish market, but the hot sunny weather in Mendoza, where over 80% of the countries wine is produced, is not ideal for this cool-climate grape. Instead, Argentina can offer its own indigenous aromatic white grape, Torrontés. There are some very tasty wines, the best of which tend to come from the cooler vineyards in Salta to the far north, or more recently from Patagonia in the deep south. Think of a cross a cross between Sauvignon and Gewürztraminer, aromatic and refreshing with succulent ripe fruits. In addition to Torrontés, there has been some success with Chardonnay and Viognier in particular.

The country also has a few special red varieties; most of you will be familiar with Malbec, a French grape variety that Argentina has made it’s own in recent years. The less expensive versions have lovely supple ripe dark fruits; the more expensive are full-bodied and powerful, packed with explosive meaty dark fruits. Provided they aren’t too heavily oaked, I am very fond of both camps. The Bonarda grape was thought to be related to the Barbera grape of Piedmont, and was assumed that it had been brought over by Italian immigrants. More recent studies show it to be the Corbeau of Savoie, also known as Charbono in California. Bonarda is usually full of colour, with plenty of acidity and tannins too. If the winemaker succeeds in taming the tannins, it can be a very attractive refreshing red. Together these two semi-indigenous varieties make up almost 50% of red plantings. But with all the noise about Malbec, it is sometimes forgotten that Argentina makes some very good Cabernet, and increasingly, some very stylish Syrah too.

I am slightly mystified why Argentina has not been more successful as it appears to have everything going for it. Perhaps 2010 will see a real breakthrough. In addition to the wines below, Trapiche, Alamos, Argento and Pascual Toso are both widely available and reliable.


Michel Torino Torrontés 2009, Calchaqui Valley
13.5% €9.99 Michel Torino are based in the cooler northern vineyards of Cafayate. Their wines usually have an elegance and freshness about them. This is a very perfumed Torrontés, with aromas of honeysuckle and a lovely light but concentrated fresh palate with succulence and zip.

Stockists: The Wine Boutique, Ringsend; Dunnes Stores; Matsons, Bandon; Sandyford House, Dublin 14; Deveneys, Dundrum; Redmonds, Ranelagh.

Tesco’s Finest Argentina Shiraz 2009, San Juan
14.5% €5.99 The Callia winery in San Juan, a few hours drive north of Mendoza makes some impressive Syrah. This has savoury chewy liquorice and dark fruits, plenty of power and surprisingly good length. Tesco have this at €5.99 on promotion for August and September, so snap it up as it represents a fantastic bargain.

Stockists: Tesco
Luigi Bosca Bonarda 2009, Mendoza

13.5% €10 A nicely aromatic juicy red with very attractive succulent tangy blackberry fruits and a smooth finish. Perfect on its own but better with cold meats and charcuterie. Serve cool but not chilled.

Stockists: Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Ardkeeen, Waterford; Swan’s, Naas; Mac’s, Limerick; Fahy’s, Ballina; Market 57, Westport; Next Door, Salthill; Next Door Kilkee; Red Island, Skerries The Vintry, Rathgar; Sweeneys, Glasnevin; Redmonds, Ranelagh; Next Door, Thomastown; Gibney’s, Malahide; Next Door, Enniscorthy.

Doña Paula Los Cardos Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Mendoza
14% €9.99 A fragrant svelte velvety Cabernet with a sweet new oak and ripe cassis fruit, and good value at €10. Try it with roast lamb.

Stockists: Tesco; Next Door; Nolan’s Clontarf; Eurospar, Dalkey; The Carpenter, Carpenterstown; Fagan’s, Phibsborough.

Altos las Hormigas Malbec 2009, Mendoza
14% €14.99 A fresher style of Malbec with a generous amount of fresh juicy dark fruits, good acidity and a lingering finish. Going slightly towards Europe in style, this would go nicely with medium-bodied red meats.

Stockists: 64 Wine, Glasthule; Red Island Wine, Skerries; Fallon & Byrne, Exchequer St.; Wine Cellar, Sandyford Business Park; J M Vintners; Next Door Enfield; Drink Store, Manor St; Donnybrook Fair; Le Caveau, Kilkenny; Simply Wines and Martins, Fairview.

Bodega Lurton Malbec Reserva 2008, Mendoza
14.5% €18.00 A meatier style of Malbec, but beautifully done; masses of rich swarthy dark fruits overlaid with some spice, and excellent length. A wine of immense power and depth that calls out for a steak.

Stockists: Redmonds, Ranelagh; Thomas, Foxrock.




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