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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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Two Fine Italians for the weekend

Two Fine Italians for the weekend

Findlater & Co. held an Italian portfolio tasting for the trade yesterday. There was a very impressive collection of wines on show at every price level. I include two of my favourites below.

Claudio Fenocchio


Giacomo Fenocchio Roero Arneis 2017

Claudio Fenocchio was at the tasting pouring his wine, including a few impeccably balanced Barolos and a very tasty Langhe Nebbiolo. I also really enjoyed this Roero Arneis – and tasted it alongside the ‘orange’ version that had been left on the skins for 6 months. Very different but both delicious.

Nicely textured relatively rich peach fruits with tangy slightly pithy orange peel. Soft and rounded with nice grip coming through on the finish. €25 from Mitchell & Son, Dublin 1, Sandycove, and Avoca, Kilmacanogue & Dunboyne,


Maria Gerari of Gianni Brunelli



Gianni Brunelli Rosso di Montalcino 2017


This was part of a very impressive range of wines on show, the Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2009 being one of my favorite wines of the entire tasting. However, it would probably retail for around €175; I also enjoyed the Rosso above. 2017 was a warm vintage according to Maria.


Beautifully fragrant – all violets and strawberries; very forward with elegant concentrated ripe red cherry fruit, and a fine line of tannin. Delicious wine. €37 from Green Man Wines, Dublin 6,


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Four Elderly White Wines

Like many wine lovers, I squirrel bottles of wine away to see how they will age and then somehow forget about them. As part of my continuing attempts to clear out my cellar I opened up these four white wines over the weekend. Some had aged better than others.

Crozes Hermitage Blanc 2013, Yann Chave.

This wasn’t really forgotten wine; I am a fan of the Chave white wanted to see how it aged. The answer is very well. This had attractive plump peachy fruits, subtle toasted almonds held together by good acidity. Delicious.  13% abv. Imported by Tindal Wines.

Riesling Grand Cru Kitterlé 2005, Domaines Schlumberger

I has high hopes for this as I am a fan of both Schlumberger and mature Riesling. As it turned out, this bottle was good rather than great. Mature toasted nuts, a touch of pineapple, some orange peel, dominated by high acidity. Nice, but looking at tasting notes online, I suspect it would have been better five years ago. 12% abv. Imported by Tindal Wines.

Donnafugata Chiarandà 2007, DOC Contessa Entellina Bianco, Sicily

A Chardonnay with an (unspecified) proportion of Ansonica (aka Inzolia). I have always enjoyed this wine, and been impressed with its ability to age. This was no exception, although possibly it might have been even better a few years ago. The 2007 at twelve years old was ripe and rounded with toasted nuts, honeyed, soft, round peach fruits and good length. I really enjoyed this. 13.5% abv. Imported by Liberty Wines.

Bourgogne Aligoté 2008, Domaine G. & J.H. Goisot

I bought of this wine, and this was the last remaining bottle. At the time it was very good, but I should have finished this off a few years ago. Light brown in colour and oxidised. This went down the sink. 12.5% abv Imported by Nomad Wines.

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It is often said that wine is all about time and place; it tastes better (or worse) depending on the food, the company and where you find yourself eating. I had tried the two wines below before in professional tastings. Both were very good but had been outshone by rival wines. Both tasted immeasurably better one Friday night, after a long, hard week, over dinner at home with my wife.

Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume 2017, Domaine Séguinot-Bordet



Floral and fresh, very forward with excellent racy acidity to keep balance; verdant lip-smacking green apple fruits, and a cleansing dry finish. Still youthful but irresistible right now.

We had ours with seared scallops with lemon zest and butter.

Fourchaumes is one of the best-known of the premiers crus of Chablis, partly due to its size. It also has a very favourable position just north of the Grands Crus, south facing with clay-limestone Kimmeridgean soils. It is held to be one of the finest of the premiers crus along with Mont de Milieu and Montée de Tonnerre, all of which are located on the north banks of the river Serein.

Available from Wines Direct, Mullingar, and Arnott’s, Dublin 1,



Pavillon de Léoville Poyferré 2015, St. Julien



Classic modern Saint Julien, forward and fragrant, with rich opulent blackcurrant fruits, cedar and subtle new oak, fine tannins and impressive rounded length.

A roast leg of lamb would be perfect.

This is not the second wine of Ch. Léoville-Poyferré (that is Ch. Moulin Riche) but made from younger vines on the estate. Tasted and then Coravined a few weeks earlier. On the first occasion it was fine, but another less expensive wine showed better.

Available from Whelehan’s, Loughlinstown,


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