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Heimann & Fiai, Hungary

Heimann & Fiai, Hungary

Every now and again you come across a producer that might be special. I met Hungarian winemaker Zoltán Heimann on a visit to Dublin last year. He is obviously a very bright and capable winemaker, and he is making some fantastic wines.

The Heimann winery was established by his parents, his mother making the wine and his father, also Zoltán, involved in the viticulture. They are based in Szekszárd in the southern part of the country, red wine country I am told. Zoltán studied winemaking at Geisenheim, Montpellier and Bordeaux before returning home.

The family has a passion for Kadarka and Kékfrankos, two indigenous grape varieties. Zoltán senior has been working with the local university to produce better lower-yielding clones of both varieties to improve the quality of their grapes.

Kadarka has a long history in Hungary, and was an important constituent in the legendary Bull’s Blood/ Bikavér. Handled carefully, it can produce mouth-watering fresh wines with crunchy dark fruits.

Kékfrankos is the Hungarian name for Blaufränkisch, a variety grown all over central Europe. There are several leading proponents in Austria producing great wines. The wines are typically low in alcohol, medium-bodied, with pure fresh fruits. I love them.

I tasted three wines from Heimann and was blown away by them. All had an amazing purity, lively acidity, and perfectly ripe fruits combined with a beguiling freshness.

Hungary has been making great wines for decades now; we just don’t see them here in Ireland. The Heimann wines, along with some from other interesting Hungarian producers, are imported by Balázs Rakamazi of Vinifinesse. JN Wines also import wines from the Sebestyén winery also in the Szekszárd region.

Kadarka Szekszárd 2021, Heimann
Fresh reviving red fruits and morello cherries with nicely balancing acidity and a touch of spice. A lovely vin de soif. 16/20 €26.75 – €26-28.

Kékfrankos 2018 Heimann
Dried rose petals, leafy developing leafy smoky notes with red fruits and a mineral bite. 16.5/20 €26-28

Kékfrankos Bati Kereszt 2019, Heimann
This is a seriously good wine; lovely fresh nose, dark fruits, plums and blackcurrants and floral notes; the palate has the same bright, ripe, rounded fruits and a chalky dry finish. Classic Kékfrankos / Blaufränkisch. 17.5/20 €35-37

The Heimann wines are available from the following outlets: The Corkscrew, D2; 64Wine, Glasthule; Blackrock Cellar; Clontarf Wines, D3; Pinto Wines, D9; Pete’s Provisions, D5; Elm Epicurean, D4; Margadh, D13; Provender Stores, D8.

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How often have we heard the description ‘modest, quietly spoken and lets the wine do the talking’ only to meet a brash, overly confident winemaker? One of my very best trips ever was to Beaujolais with the late Tomás Clancy in 2016. We spent three or four wonderful days visiting many of the great producers of the region including Jean-Paul Brun. I had been enjoying the wines for years, so it was a pleasure to meet him, all the more so because he was genuinely modest and let us taste the wines in peace, only answering questions when asked, having given us a brief introduction to his domaine. Even the signage (see above) was modest. The wines then and now are wonderful, always light in alcohol, pure in fruit and full of character. At a recent Wines Direct tasting, I tasted five of his wines, each one a charmer. All are available exclusively from and their shop in Mullingar.

Beaujolais Blanc 2021 Domaines des Terres Dorées, Jean-Paul Brun
Delightful lively Chardonnay with lightly textured orange peel and green apples. €23.35

Roussanne Blanc Jean-Paul Brun Vin de France 2021
Made from vines planted in the Beaujolais region. Creamy, with a seductive rich texture and apricot fruits. Very moreish. Organic. €24.75

Côtes de Brouilly 2021 Domaine des Terres Dorées, Jean-Paul Brun
Textbook Beaujolais; fresh slightly grippy zippy red cherry fruits, good acidity and a supple finish. It has a wonderful diaphanous quality. An unputdownable vine de soif. Organic. €26

Moulin-à-Vent Domaine des Terres Dorées 2021, Jean-Paul Brun
Wow! An amazing concentration of slightly savoury refreshing juicy dark fruits. Seemingly light, but it has genuine structure that calls out for little ageing. Lovely wine. €29.25

Morgon Côte de Puy 2021 Domaine des Terres Dorées, Jean-Paul Brun
Another stunner. Restrained, elegant yet concentrated with a lovely mineral backbone and slightly chewy tannins. Gorgeous now but will certainly keep and improve. Organic. €32.70

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Anthill Farms Syrah 2013, Campbell Ranch Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, U.S.A.

Anthill Farms Syrah 2013, Campbell Ranch Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, U.S.A.

Quite delicious with easy smooth dark fruits, a lick of dusty leather, spice and black pepper. This has a lovely soft subtle ripeness and the tannins are light at this stage.

A present from my sister who lives in California, and knows I am a fan of Anthill. The winery is better known for their Pinot, but the Syrah, from a cool-climate vineyard a few kilometres from the Pacific Ocean, is equally good.

Anthill Farms are imported by Winemason and I see Mitchell & Son has the 2016 vintage for €48.95.

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spit 2022

Just back from one of the tasting highlights of the year: Spit! This is a group of four of our finest small importers who come together twice a year to show their wines. One is primarily Spanish, one Burgundian, another Italian, and one Austro-German-Portuguese, but all have a selection from various parts of Europe and South Africa.

Below, a few of my favourites, but there were many, many more.

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Cool and elegant – Garnacha?

This article was first published in The Irish Times, Saturday 17th September, 2022

It is one of the most widely planted grapes, capable of producing high-quality wines, so you might expect it to be celebrated worldwide. Yet, until recently, Grenache, or Garnacha, was seen as a source of cheap everyday wines. It is only over the past decade that things have changed.

The Spanish claim Garnacha as theirs, although it is widely planted in the southern Rhône and Languedoc where it is a big ingredient in blends, the most famous being Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Garnacha likes sun and a dry climate to ripen fully. It has thin skins and so is generally pale in colour, with light tannins. It can have high levels of alcohol, giving it a sensation of sweetness even though it is dry. It has travelled to other warm regions, including Australia and South Africa.

In Spain, it took a small group of winemakers, including the duo from Commando G featured here, to rediscover the potential of Garnacha. The granitic soils of the mountainous Sierra de Gredos region are responsible for some sensational wines, usually made from gnarled, ancient untrained vines. Fragrant and ethereal, the wines are often compared with Pinot Noir. Producers in Australia and South Africa are now also making far brighter, more elegant wines. As well as the wine featured here, look out for the Willunga 100 McLaren Vale Grenache (€20) and John Duval’s Plexus (€37-€40) a masterful blend, both from independents.

Other regions in Spain, such as Calatayud and Campo de Borja, produce large quantities of generous gluggable warming wines; perfect for drinking alongside rich stews on those cooler autumnal evenings.

As suggested above, powerful Garnacha partners rich stews, braises, daubes as well as vegetarian tomato and bean casseroles well. However, the lighter more elegant style goes well with cauliflower or macaroni cheese, as well as pork dishes.

Tesco’s Finest Old Vine Selection Garnacha 2019, Campo de Borja

14%, €12

Full-bodied and rounded with plum and dark cherry fruits. Enjoy with a bean and tomato stew (with or without chorizo).

From: Tesco

Yalumba Barossa Bush Vine Grenache 2019, Samuel’s Collection

14.5%, €25.95

Enticing, sweet, ripe red cherries and strawberries with a savoury touch. Roast pork or a miso roast aubergine.

From: Matsons; Next Door, ClonakiltyMitchell & SonThe Baths, ClontarfArdkeen QFSThe Corkscrew; SuperValuRathborne, Sundrive and Barna

La Bruja de Rozas 2020, Commando G, Sierra de Gredos

14.5%, €28-€30

A perennial favourite; elegant, juicy, ripe raspberry and strawberry fruits with a lovely lively thread. A lightly spicy tagine would be a good match.

From: 64 WineLoose CanonGreen Man WinesMac Curtain Wine CellarBlackrock CellarBaggot Street WinesGrapevinePinto

Momento Grenache Noir 2019, Western Cape

13.5%, €39.95

Exquisite delicate rose petal aromas, piquant, ripe red cherry fruits and refined tannins. Try it with porchetta or cauliflower cheese.

From: RedmondsEly Wine StoreBlackrock

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`Catalò` Catalanesca 2020, Sorrentino

`Catalò` Catalanesca 2020, Sorrentino

This is one of the most enjoyable white wines I have tried in a long while. It has that delicious mouth-watering natural acidity shared by many of the whites from Campania as well as being full of interesting complex flavours. Relatively deep in colour with herbs, yellow fruits and on the nose. The palate is deceptively rich and full of flavour while still being light and refreshing; cool peaches and other stone fruits, minerals and almonds. Try it with light pasta dishes or salads.

€26.99 from Ely Wine Store, Maynooth; Redmonds of Ranelagh, D6; Pinto Wines, Drumcondra, D9;

The current enthusiasm for rediscovering old forgotten grape varieties has uncovered a host of really great varieties responsible for some unique and exciting wines. With some however, you quickly realise why they were discarded in the past. This is the first time I have come across Catalanesca, but if the wine above is any indication, it has a real future in Campania.

For decades, the Sorrentino family has been growing vines in the unique fertile volcanic soils found on the southern slopes of Mount Vesuvio. They specialise in local varieties, including Caprettone, Coda di Volpe, and Falanghina for white wines and red varieties such as Aglianico and Piedirosso. And the aforementioned Catalanesca.

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A Pinot Dinner


We had my parents-in-law around for dinner on Saturday and as they are fond of Burgundy, I opened up two bottles, plus a Pinot from the Loire Valley.

Pernand-Vergelesses, Les Belles Filles, 2015 J.C. Ramonet

A delicious medium-bodied pure Chardonnay with subtle spice, and very good acidity. Lightly aromatic, with mouth-filling peaches but not over-ripe nor in the least bit clumsy.


Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2015, Sylvain Pataille

This was a lovely glass of wine: perfumed and elegant, with pure ripe dark cherries, just enough acidity and very good concentration. I suspect this will continue to improve, but a joy to drink right now. Around €30 from independents. Imported by


Sancerre Rouge Maulin Bèle 2017, Domaine André Vatan

A very different structure to the Bourgogne (both are Pinot Noir) with softer fruits; ripe dark cherries, a lovely juiciness and very good concentration. Lovely wine, perfect with roast pork. Available for €24.50 from Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown,

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The Young and the Old

I opened up these for dinner last night; two Loire Cab Francs twenty one years apart. The Amirault St.-Nicolas de Bourgueil Les Malganges 2017 (Coravined from a tasting a few weeks back) has an amazing concentration of pure blackcurrant fruits, with the structure to last and evolve for years to come. Very drinkable now though. It is imported by Grape Circus, and available in Sheridans Cheesemongers and – €42 a bottle. I know it is being served by the glass in Ely at present.

I am a big fan of the Baudry wines; some of the best Chinon around.  This bottle was, I think, a thank-you present from Gabriel Cooney of Grapevine in Dalkey for a tasting I did many years ago. It was holding together very well, with very good acidity and developing delicate red cherry and redcurrant fruits. Nice grip and plenty of fruit. Possibly a little too austere for my tastes but still very good over dinner. A mere 12% alcohol.

Grapevine in Dalkey and Cabot & Co in Westport import the Baudry wines together. They can also be found out in Red Island wines in Skerries. I don’t see this wine listed, but the 2017 Les Grezeaux is €25.




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Moët celebrates a birthday

A very smart package arrived on my doorstep this week, from the people who handle Moët & Chandon. The famous Moët Impérial Brut Champagne is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, and has released a limited-edition bottle and newly designed gift box.

Originally christened ‘Impérial’ as a tribute to Napoléon Bonaparte, the first bottles were shipped in 1869. Apparently a bottle was smashed on the bow to bring good luck on the voyage thus creating a tradition that continues today (although not always with Moët). The Champagne spraying at the winners podium, indulged in by racing drivers (always with Moët) was started at Le Mans in 1967 by Dan Gurney. Various rock stars, film stars and other assorted celebs have enjoyed a glass of Moët and it has appeared in a number of films.

With a bottle opened every second somewhere in the world, Moët Impérial (it is pronounced Mowett) is the most popular brand of Champagne of all, with some 28 million bottles being produced every year. While I have not always been impressed by the quality of the Champagne in the past, I have tasted several very good bottles more recently. Expect bright apple and pear fruits, and a smooth lightly creamy palate with touches of grilled nuts.

The anniversary gift box with limited edition (not sure how limited) bottle is available from SuperValu for €58. A standard bottle, widely available will set you back €48-50.


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Relative Values from the Northern Rhône: St. Joseph & Crozes-Hermitage!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_620_330/image.jpg?w=904&ssl=1


First published in The Irish Times, Saturday22nd June, 2019

I wrote a few weeks ago that, given tax and duty, “value” and “cheap” do not always go together when it comes to wine. In Ireland a sub-€10 bottle can be a waste of your hard-earned cash. More expensive wines are frequently better value for money. The two great names of the northern Rhône, Hermitage and Côte Rôtie, are beyond the reach of most of us, selling for €50-€100 a bottle. The relative bargains are close at hand; between these two appellations lie St Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage. Both can offer great value – although by value I mean €20-€35 a bottle. For that you should get a wine that will transform your dinner into a special event.

In general, the wines of the northern Rhône are lighter in alcohol and more elegant in style than those of the southern Rhône, at times closer to Burgundy than to Châteauneuf-du-Pape. All are made from Syrah, occasionally with a very small percentage of a white grape.

Crozes-Hermitage, once dismissed as poor man’s Hermitage, is now responsible for some very stylish wines. They may lack the structure and concentration of wines from the neighbouring hill of Hermitage, but the best have lovely bright, fresh fruits and can age a little, too – a glass of the 2007 vintage of the Les Rouvres below was a recent highlight.

Farther north, the narrow, 50km-long appellation of St Joseph, covering 26 communes, is bigger but produces less wine than Crozes-Hermitage. It has some fantastic sites and old vines. I strongly suspect quality and prices will continue to rise, but for the moment prices in both regions are reasonable; trying to decide on just four wines this week was not easy.

I have previously mentioned the Crozes-Hermitage from Alain Graillot (€30, Mitchell & Son) and the Cuvée Equinox Domaine des Lises (€24,, Ely 64, Green Man), and they are great wines. In addition to the Terroir de Granit below, Burgundy Direct has the tighter, more mineral Passion de Terrasses 2016 for €31.75. has a great range of wines from the region, including a lovely St Joseph André Perret for €27.50. Wines Direct has the fuller-bodied wines from Domaine des Remizières.

I tasted some spectacular wines from the recently rediscovered appellation of Brézème – check out your local independent for the names Éric Texier and Domaine Lombard. I also discovered a new superstar in Domaine Bott, imported to Ireland by Caubet Wines. Among the negociants, Chapoutier, Ferraton, Guigal, Jaboulet and Cuilleron all produce at least reasonably priced St Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage. And most are great value for money.

Crozes-Hermitage 2015 Grande Classique, Cave de Tain
13.5%, €19.95
This has featured before, but it is one of my all-time favourites. Beautifully rounded, ripe yet savoury dark fruits with a good dry finish. A great all-purpose wine, but perfect with roast chicken or pork.
From O’Briens,

St Joseph 2016, Terroir de Granit, Guy Farge
12.5%, €26.50
A lovely, elegant wine with fresh violets on the nose, crunchy, juicy dark-cherry fruits and a light mineral touch. Try it with a plate of charcuterie or some grilled lamb chops.
From Burgundy Direct,

St Joseph 2016, Domaine du Monteillet, Stéphane Montez
12.5%, €31.95
Plump, fresh dark fruits – cherries and blackcurrants – with a whiff of spice and an easy finish. Would pair well with a seared duck breast with black cherries.
From Searsons, Monkstown, Co Dublin,; Ely 64, Glasthule, Co Dublin,

Crozes-Hermitage 2015 Le Rouvre, Yann Chave
13.5%, €34.95
One of my favourite wines. The 2015 is relatively rich and powerful, with harmonious ripe blackcurrant fruits and spicy black pepper. This would handle a rare steak perfectly.
From Searsons, Monkstown, Co Dublin,


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