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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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The Cork Debate

I am becoming more than a little tired of the cork debate. Before the zealots from either side get started (and both sides can be very evangelical at times) I fully accept that corks are a very unreliable form of closure. It is deeply frustrating to spend a large sum of money on a bottle of wine, lay it down for a few years, only to discover the wine is faulty. That aside, when pleasant conversations about wine degenerate into heated discussions about corks and screwcaps, I tend to lose interest rapidly.

At a dinner party last week, I served two bottles of Cepparello 2006, Paulo di Marche’s subtle elegant Super-Tuscan Sangiovese. They had been given to me as a thank-you by a very generous friend. The sole difference between the two was one had been bottled under cork, the other screwcap or stelvin. David Gleave, M.D. of wine importer Liberty has persuaded some of his producers to change to screwcap for his U.K. clients although conservative Italy and other countries still demand cork. Our tasting was inconclusive. The screwcap version seemed slightly fresher – or was it my imagination? But both were super wines, subtle refined and mellow. We happily drank both.

However, Gleave’s point (and that of others too) was proven not by the Cepparello but by the wine I served with the starter; Cuvée Frédéric Emile 2002 from Trimbach.  This is one of my favourite wines. The first bottle was fine but a little shy and retiring. The second was superb; more developed with magnificent honey and nuts wrapped up in a fine core of acidity. Neither wine was corked or faulty. It was simply bottle variation. Had I only uncorked the first bottle I would have been a little disappointed, wondering why I had bought a case of this wine when I came across it at a tasting four years ago. A fairly conclusive argument for screwcap?

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1967 burgundy versus 1966 claret – old wines and old friends

Old wine and old friends

This week I had the pleasure of whiling away a few hours with Peter Dunne, my first wine boss in Mitchell & Son, and someone whose company I enjoy greatly. We promise to meet every six months but it inevitably happens only every 18-24. Peter provided the wines on this occasion, a 1967 Gevrey-Chambertin from Mommessin and a Ch. Pontet-Canet 1966. Both were bottled by Mitchell and Son in Dublin as was the practice then.


The Burgundy was delightful and instead of fading, improved as the afternoon wore on (or maybe it was us). It had sweet ripe fruit, no sous-bois or putrification as Peter put it; just pleasant soft silky fruit. The Pontet-Canet will not go down as one of the greatest wines I have tasted, but was almost as nice in its own way. Drier and firmer with some old fading mahogany fruit, it was still all together, although modern winedrinkers might complain of a lack of fruit. Drinking elderly wine is a particular pleasure, something not everyone enjoys, but I have to say there are few things better than sniffing and sipping away at light mature wines in good company for a few ‘lost hours’.

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Two great wines last weekend

I‘ve been on a bit of a roll in recent weeks winewise. This is partly the result of my drink less, drink better regime. If I cut out wine three days a week, I am going to make sure I enjoy the remaining few days. The three Rhône Syrahs of last week (see previous blog) was followed by two delicious wines on Saturday night.

We ate a Caesar’s salad followed by crab linguini followed by a few slices of Ossau-Iraty, one of my favourite cheeses, made from sheep’s milk.

Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Dry Riesling 2012



An award winning wine and deservedly so. Beautiful lifted aromatic nose, wonderful crisp light lime and green apple fruits, perfectly balanced.  Delicious with crab linguini.


Fürst Spätburgunder Tradition 2010, Franken



I bought a few bottles of this, an utterly delicious German Pinot Noir from one of the leading practitioners, Rudolf Fürst. Fragrant nose, soft silky light cherry fruits with good acidity and a seamless finish. Perfect with the cheese and by itself.


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Crozes-Hermitage 2005 Alain Graillot

St. Joseph ‘Les Royes’1999 Domaine Courbis

Syrah ‘Sensation du Nord’ 2009 Patrick & Christophe Bonnefond

Over the August bank holiday weekend, I sipped my way through three delicious light elegant Syrahs from the Northern Rhône.  Over the last few years, probably only Pinot Noir has given me more pleasure than wines from this region. Most have a seductive delicacy and finesse combined with light alcohol and a savoury edge.

Bangs per buck Alain Graillot’s red Crozes Hermitage must be one of the best value wines in the market. Both red and white sell for under €30, and both are accessible young but with an ability to age – a wonderful combination. The red is never big nor alcoholic winning you over with its subtle charms. I have drunk many vintages and rarely been disappointed. This was a bottle of 2005, given to me by a friend. It was great wine; light elegant with slightly pithy dark cherry fruits, some liquorice and a pleasing underlying earthiness. The finish was silky smooth. I savoured it over three days and it was as good the third day as the first.

The Saint Joseph 1999 Courbis was another gift, originally cellared in one of the Oxbridge colleges. 1999 was a great year in the northern Rhône. The wine did not have quite the elegance of the Graillot, but had lovely developed medium-bodied savoury dark fruits and very good length. Really delicious wine.

The third wine was a 2009 Vin de pays des collines Rhodanniennes Syrah from Christophe Bonnefond, one of the up-and-coming producers in Côte Rotie. This was made from young vines I think. It was very good, lighter than the others but with lovely purity of fruit.  There was a little new oak on the finish in particular, but it never overshadowed the smooth fresh ripe dark fruits. It sells for just under €20. Mine came from Jus de Vine in Portmarnock.

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From Terroirs in Donnybrook one of the few French Basque wines available in this country; both Wines on the Green and 64wine have Txacoli, the white Spanish Basque wine. Arretxea are the leading estate in the region and the wine was very good, especially with meatballs in a mushroom sauce. It sells for €19.50 and is pretty good value at that.

This was very good although ripe and richer than I had anticipated; great colour, ripe dark fruit on the nose, soft rounded forest fruits on the palate with a little spice and a smooth finish. It has some of the structure you would expect of Iroulégy, but the tannins are ripe and well integrated.


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