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New Wines & Bargains from O’Briens

O’Briens held a press tasting recently to highlight their offers for the coming season, and a few new wines too. As usual some nice wines, some very keenly priced, others quirky and interesting – including an Orange wine from Marc Kreydenweiss. Most of the offers don’t begin until November and run through the Christmas season. Below, a dozen of my favourites from the tasting – white, red, sparkling, sweet and fortified!

  1. Júlia Florista Branco, Portugal, NV

€9.95, down to €7.95 for November/December

Decent slightly sweetish plump fruits with good acidity. At €7.95, very good value for money.

  1. Wildflower Pinot Grigio 2017, Romania

€13.95, down to €8.95 for November/December

Attractive plump ripe melon and green apple fruits. Perfect party wine, or with lighter salads. At €8.95, a steal.

  1. Il Forte Gavi 2017

€15.95 down to €11.95 for November/December

I’m not a huge Gavi fan but this has all the classic Gavi character – slightly bitter quince and crisp green apples- at a very competitive price.

  1. Wildflower Pinot Noir 2017, Romania

€13.95 down to €8.95

Light, with sweetish plum and red cherry fruits and a tannin-free finish. You won’t mistake it for fine Burgundy, but this would make a great party wine.

  1. Porta 6 2016, Portugal

€12.95 down to €9.95 for November/December

Understandably one of the most popular wines in O’Briens, this is an easy-drinking wine with a decent concentration of dark cherry fruits, a nice earthiness and just enough acidity to balance the ripeness. A great all-purpose wine – for wet Wednesday dinners or large parties.

  1. St. Hallett Gamekeeper’s Grenache Shiraz Touriga 2015

€19.95 down to €14.95 for November/December

Powerful with rich ripe red fruits and a touch of spice. At €14.95 a steal.

  1. Croser Rosé Sparkling NV, Adelaide Hills, Australia

€24.95 down to €21.95 for November/December

A very classy pure Pinot Noir, with crisp strawberry and red cherry fruits, and subtle brioche. Good concentration and length.


8.   Granzamy Brut NV, Champagne

€34.95 down to €29.95 for November/December

A Blanc de Noirs, made from Pinot Meunier. Stylish, lightly creamy, with subtle red fruits. This has real character and a snappy dry finish.

9. Ch. Mauvesin Barton, Moulis-en-Médoc 2014

€28.95 down to €24.95 for November/December

Classic, elegant claret with a lovely fragrant nose, and smooth blackcurrant fruits that glide across the palate, finishing dry.

  1. 10. Disznoko Furmint Late Harvest 2016, Hungary

€16.95 per ½ bottle

Most at the tasting were wowed by the Disznoko Tokaji Aszu 6 Putonyos 2005 below. So was I, but it costs €60. This late harvest Furmint at €16.95 was deliciously fragrant and fresh, with notes of orange peel and good acidity; sweet but never cloying. Very nice wine.

Disznoko Tokaji Aszu 6 Putonyos 2005

€60 per ½ litre bottle

If you have the money and enjoy sweet wines, this is an amazingly good Tokaji, with a huge intensity of grilled nuts, marzipan and orange peel, perfectly balanced by the acidity and excellent length.

  1. Bethany Old Quarry Tawny, Australia

€24.95 down to €21.95 for November/December

This is very good warming Tawny with ripe raspberries, raisins and toasted nuts with a sprinkle of spice. Xmas in a glass, if its not too early! Great value for money too.

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Mary Pawle Wines

Mary Pawle Wines

Mary Pawle and her husband Ivan are far to nice to say it, but they must look on the current fashion for organic, biodynamic and natural wines with a wry smile. They are certainly far too nice to complain. Mary Pawle Wines was set up by the couple twenty one years ago with the sole purpose of importing organic wines. Back then organic wines were seen by most in the business as undrinkable and of no commercial interest, bought by a small group of hippies who knew nothing about wine. ‘A lot of people thought it was a very silly notion,’ says Mary ‘and some were very confused. They thought I was going to make gorse wine or something like that.’ How times have changed! Now it seems every importer is trying to seduce us with their range of low or no-sulphur, non-interventionist organic or biodynamic wines made according to the phases of the moon.

It’s great to see’, says Mary, I’ve always wanted to keep ours as a small business but now I have competition from all sides. To be honest, in those days a lot of those organic wines, made by well-intentioned people were undrinkable. But it became very clear early on, in France in particular, that consumers were very taken with the idea.’

They have lived in Gortnamullen near Kenmare since for 40 years. This is not a fast-moving, marketing-driven company, seeking plaudits from journalists and social media. In fact it took a gentle reminder from a friend and colleague to remind me of their existence. But I have been meeting the couple at the occasional tasting every year since their inception. I have always received a genuinely warm welcome and have always enjoyed the wines too.

Once I made contact with them, I received a case of samples. Since then I have been working my way slowly through an intriguing selection. All of the wines so far have been well-made and interesting, and all pretty good value for money. Probably the best-known supplier is Ch. Feely, the biodynamic producer, also known for the books on the subject written by Caroline Feely. The emphasis is on France, and exclusively European.

They do sell wine directly to the public , but not online; you need to send an email (although their coverage is not always reliable). Alternatively you could give them a call, and receive some friendly advice. See their website, Some of their wines are sold through independent retailers; Clontarf Wines and Morton’s in Ranelagh both stock a range. All four wines below are organic.

Foto ALR_verdeAir Vinho Verde 2016, Antonio Lopes Ribeiro


A mere 10.5% in alcohol, this would make a great summer wine, with its light tangy fresh pear fruits and a very slight spritz. Perfect on its own or with seafood dishes. An organic wine made from three local grapes – Loureiro, Avesso and Arinto.





L’Air Innocent 2015, Vin Nature, Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine sur Lie, Domaine de la Fessardière


Some no sulphur wines, particularly white wines, can be difficult to like., A small dose of SO2 at bottling . This sulphur-free, organic wine however, is very good indeed. A mere 12% in alcohol, with plump apple and white peach fruits, underpinned by a refreshing acidity, it is a joy to drink. Try it by itself, with shellfish, or salads. We enjoyed our bottle with a bowl of mussels with pasta.


curios_negre (1)Curíos 2016 Tempranillo, Albet y Noya, Penedès, Organic



I am a big fan of lighter Tempranillo and this is my kind of wine; fragrant and juicy with good pure dark cherry fruits and a mineral touch. Very approachable and enjoyable, and great value for money too.




Pure Pinot NoirDomaine de Brau Pure Pinot Noir 2014, VDP d’Oc


Domaine de Brau have been organic for many years. They are based in the Cabardès region of the Languedoc, where the unique climate is responsible for some unusually elegant wines. This is very palatable, a touch earthy, with plenty of concentrated pure dark cherry fruits; more burly than earthy, but attractive and very good value at the price.



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barbaresco pic


Thanks to Jürgen Karwig of Karwig Wines, I had the opportunity to taste my way through nine 2013 single vineyard releases from one of the most respected co-ops in Europe, the Produttori del Barbaresco. It was a fantastic, if slightly nerdy tasting, with some amazing wines. If you are a fan of Nebbiolo (and I am) these are wines to seek out at the addresses below. Quantities, sadly, are limited. All of the wines had been opened the day before and sealed by Vacuvin. The Reservas sell for €50-55 a bottle, very reasonable compared to rival offerings. Interested retailers and restaurants should contact Karwig Wines.

Langhe Nebbiolo 2015

A rich, relatively ripe full-bodied Nebbiolo, with plenty of fleshy fruit. Very good value for money, for drinking over the next 2-3 years. 14.5% alcohol, whereas all of the other wines were labeled 14%. 14/20

Barbaresco 2013

Fresh fragrant aromas, with violets and firm but elegant fresh red cherry fruits. Nice length too. Classic Barbaresco and very well-made wine. 15.5/20

Barbaresco Riserva Pora 2013

Wonderful lifted rose petal aromas, and a solid core of elegant sweet/sour damson and red cherry fruits and a good solid tannic structure. 16/20

Barbaresco Riserva Rio Sordo 2013

A stunning fragrant nose with lavender, rose petals and violets; supremely elegant with real depth, and refined delicate fruit and excellent length. Not the biggest, but very refined. 17.5/20

Barbaresco Riserva Ovello 2013

Excellent concentrated meaty dark pure fruits, closed yet still fragrant on the nose, with a lovely quality of concentrated red cherry fruits, and a savoury edge. 17/20

Barbaresco Riserva Muncagota 2013

Medium-bodied, with some good muscular cherry fruits, peppery spice and a solid tannic structure. Very good wine with all the right components, but somehow I couldn’t warm to it. 16.5/20

Barbaresco Riserva Rabaja 2013

Not a great bottle. Possibly it had not been sealed properly – all of the wines had been Vacuvined the previous day.

Barbaresco Riserva Montestefano 2013

A quite brilliant wine, full rich muscular, with a massive concentration of succulent dark fruits, finishing on a sweet/ripe note. Keep. 18/20

Barbaresco Riserva Asili 2013

Brilliant wine that opens out over an hour or so. Succulent elegant pure red cherry fruits, no obvious tannins, but they are there. And lovely sweet length. Excellent and a keeper. 17.5/20

Barbaresco Riserva Paje 2013

A very stylish perfectly balanced Nebbiolo. With tobacco and flowers on the nose, really lovely elegant red fruits, and a beautiful finish. Hard to resist now but will keep. 17/20

Barbaresco Riserva Montefico 2013

Distinctive nose and palate that could only be Nebbiolo, with a floral nose and deeply etched dark fruits; muscular and very long. Another keeper. 18/20



Nebbiolo Langhe €26-30: Terroirs, Donnybrook; Wine Centre, Kilkenny; Cinnamon Cottage, Cork; The Corkscrew, Chatham Street; Grapevine, Dalkey; Karwig Wines, Cork.

Barbaresco DOCG (Various vintages) €40: Terroirs, Donnybrook; Whelehan’s, Loughlinstown; The Wine Centre, Kilkenny; 64 Wine, Glasthule; Grapevine, Dalkey; The Parting Glass, Enniskerry; The Corkscrew, Chatham Street; Power and Co., Lucan.

Single Vineyard Riserva Wines: Currently being distributed. The following shops will have stocks of previous vintages; 1601 Off lIcence, Kinsale; Terroirs, Donnybrook; 64 Wine, Glasthule.



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Three Great Weekend Wines


I drank three sensationally good bottles of wine over the weekend. When you can drink wines as good as this, it makes ‘damp’ (as opposed to dry) January so much more bearable!

Bodegas Cotas 45 UBE Miraflores 2016 VdT de Cadiz

A single-vineyard unfortified Palomino Fino that has been aged in old sherry casks, this is a quite unique and compelling wine; light, fresh, toasty, bready, with delicate apple fruits and a beguiling saline finish. Brilliant wine. €23 from Green Man Wines, Terenure & 64Wines, Glasthule.

Crozes-Hermitage 2015, Grand Classique, Cave de Tain

Last week I did an unusual thing for a wine journalist; I went out and bought a case of wine! I receive so many samples, I am rarely short of wine to drink. The opposite is usually the case. However, this is an exceptionally good wine at a great price. Possibly not a surprise, as 2015 was a great vintage in the Northern Rhône, and the Cave de Tain one of the best co-ops in France. Elegant, perfectly ripe dark fruits, just enough acidity and nicely integrated tannins. Yum!

Moulin-a-Vent 2009 Les Trois Roches, Domaine Vissoux

I bought six bottles of this six years ago; the 2009 vintage was very highly touted back then and time has proved the critics right. This is a gorgeous wine, soft ripe and rounded with intense perfectly ripe dark fruits, and a great finish. A bit riper than most vintages, but a hedonist’s delight. Terroirs in Donnybrook list the 2013 for €29.50.

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Nicolas Reau Clos des Treilles Anjou 2015

Nicolas Reau Clos des Treilles Anjou 2015

Nicolas Reau Clos des Treilles Anjou 2015

clos des TreillesHaving tasted some very strange natural wines, I have to admit I put off tasting this for a while; my mistake!  This was amazingly good – it had the lightly honeyed touch of Chenin Blanc, a lovely quality of soft nuanced pear and quince fruits, well-balanced by a subtle mineral freshness. A seductive complex elegant wine that evolves with every sip.

Drink with lighter fish dishes. It went nicely with our Danish fishcakes – Fiske Frikadelle – boiled potatoes, peas and a homemade Remoulade.

Ex jazz player Nicolas Reau makes natural wine, intervening in the process as little as possible. This Chenin Blanc, from clay soils with some flint and limestone, is made from organically-grown grapes. Natural yeast are used for a fermentation without any temperature control; the wine is neither fined nor filtered, and only a small dose of sulphur is added prior to bottling.

€24.95 from Le Caveau, Kilkenny; Green Man Wines, Terenure; 64Wines, Glasthule.

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Domaine Tempier Cuvée Classique, Bandol 2013

Domaine Tempier Cuvée Classique, Bandol 2013

Domaine Tempier Cuvée Classique, Bandol 2013

Tempier Classique 2015This is a lovely big rich spicy wine full of power character. Loaded with swarthy, ripe, bold dark fruits, an earthy touch and a nice grippy finish, this can be very happily drunk now, but will keep and develop for a few years. Tempier wines, in my experience, can age for a decade or more.

Open this up when serving robust dishes featuring red meats and game. I would decant it just before serving.

This wine brought back many memories, all happy, when I drank it on a cold winter’s evening. Before he married, my dad used to spend his summers in Bandol and always waxed lyrical about the beaches and warm Mediterranean sun. Since childhood, I had always wanted to go. Eventually I made the pilgrimage with my sister, a chef, and in the event, it was slightly disappointing. Bandol has become very developed and touristy, a world away from the town he visited in the 1930’s and 1940’s. However, a visit to Domaine Tempier, a wine I had admired and enjoyed for many years, was fantastic. The wines have become more modern, but in a good way, and still retain a lovely muscular rusticity alongside great depth of ripe herby fruits. It is not cheap, and the excellent single vineyard wines are more expensive, but this is one of the great domaines of France.

€39.95 from The Corkscrew, Chatham Street; Terroirs, Donnybrook; Power and Co., Lucan; Grapevine, Dalkey; 64 Wines, Glasthule; Worldwide Wines, Waterford; Karwig Wines, Carrigaline.


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‘The Graham Norton Shiraz, like his other wines, is very gluggable’

Are you old enough to remember falling in love with Aussie wine? With their easy-to-read varietal labels and easier to drink wines, they introduced an entire generation of Irish people to the joys of drinking wine. You no longer needed a degree in French or Italian and an extensive knowledge of geography to order a bottle of wine.

 For much of the 1990s and the following decade, sales increased every year until Australia became the best-selling country in Ireland, outstripping France, our traditional favourite. But then it all went a little sour. As the Australian dollar soared in value, and Australian wine producers turned their eyes to China, sales of their wines here took a battering. They were even overtaken by Chile as our most popular wine. Last year China overtook the United States as Australia’s biggest market, with sales worth some $520 million, so the Australians probably weren’t too worried.

 During the same period, the world moved away from those big fruit-filled wines that Australia excelled in, and began looking for something a little more subtle. Australia has a wide range of climates (it is the same size as Europe after all) and has always produced a diverse range of wines. In addition to Shiraz and Chardonnay, you could find low-alcohol, high quality Riesling from the Eden and Clare Valleys, and Semillon from the Hunter Valley. But over the past decade, the industry, one of the most dynamic in the world, began concentrating on other cooler climates and lesser-known grape varieties. They also began focusing on high quality wines for the premium market .

 Last month the Australian wine marketing body sent a deputation here to introduce their wines to a new generation of the wine trade. We were treated to a very impressive range of wines made from Petit Manseng, Marsanne, Arneis, Grüner Veltliner, Moscato, Dolcetto, and Touriga Nacional alongside some excellent Pinot Noir, Semillon, Riesling and sparkling wines. There was plenty of Shiraz and Chardonnay too, but they were lower in alcohol and more subtle in style, so if you still see Australian wines as a blunt instrument designed to cudgel you into submission, it is time to rethink.

Premium wine costs money to make, and sadly most of the wines were over €20 a bottle, and many were not (yet) available in Ireland. If you are a Pinot fan, the brilliant Gembrook Pinot Noir is available for €576 a case from Berry Brothers. But two of those listed below were included. The Tahbilk Marsanne is one of my favourite wines and brilliant value for money. Prosecco fans should certainly try out the ridiculously moreish frothy Innocent Bystander. The Graham Norton Shiraz, like his other wines, is very gluggable.

Bargain Bottle

Exquisite Collection Limestone Coast Chardonnay 2016, Australia



 Clean fresh textured red apple and pear fruits with a hint of spice.

 Stockists: Aldi

Choice Australians

Tahbilk Marsanne 2014, Nagambie Lakes  



 Expressive fresh pear, peach and tropical fruits. Crisp and dry with a lovely unique character all of its own.

 Stockists: Wines Direct, Mullingar & Arnott’s.

Innocent Bystander Moscato 2017



 Dayglo pink, bubbly and sweet with juicy grape and cherry fruits. Frivolous and fun.

 Stockists: Mortons, Clontarf Wines, Drink Store, Redmonds, Martins, McHughs, Mitchells, O’Donovan’s, Red Island, Red Nose Wine,

Graham Norton Shiraz 2015, South Australia



 Exuberant and showy – not unlike Norton himself, a big wine with heady ripe plums and spice.

 Stockists: Tesco, SuperValu, Centra.

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We had a dinner last weekend to celebrate my daughter’s eighteenth birthday. Naturally, we served wines from her birth year – nearly! My bottle of 1999 Hunter Valley VAT 1 Semillon has disappeared for the moment. I’ll find it for her 21st. Instead we opened up a bottle of 1997.

As always, you take a risk storing a wine for long periods. The cork on the 1997 Semillon disintegrated, and the wine was oxidised. The Tardieu-Laurent Côte Rôtie caused a few disagreements around the table. Some thought it lightly corked. I thought it just earthy, but with a dirty element that could mean corked. The wine had some sweet stewed prune fruits, but was dominated by powerful oak flavours of caramel and vanilla – after 18 years! Certainly not my style of wine.

The two stars of the dinner were:

1999 Bollinger Grande Année Champagne

Entrancing developed aromas of toasted hazelnuts and white fruits. The palate was equally good, a gorgeous mix of peach and dried fruits, toasted nuts, a little brioche and a firm dry finish. Exquisite champagne; I wish I had a few more in my cellar.

Côte Rôtie 1999 Domaine André François

This was given to me by a very generous ex-customer when I visited him in Boyle, Co. Roscommon earlier this year. He travels to the Rhône every year, visits his favourite producers, and returns with a car full of wines to ay down. This was drinking perfectly. ‘Olives’ according to my daughter, ‘smoky’ said my mother-in-law. Both were correct. This was a wine delicate and fully mature with mellow elegant savoury dark fruits, plus olives and wood smoke, and a nice long finish. Memorable wine.


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A Suitcase of Claret



½ bottles can be very useful if dining à deux. However they are not easy to find and you will usually be charged a hefty premium. From tomorrow until the 19th April, select Centra stores nationwide will offer a six-pack of ½ bottles of Bordeaux, in a handy wooden suitcase, for a reasonable €30. I haven’t tasted all the wines yet, but the first two, Chants de Faizeau 2015, Montage St.-Emilion and Ch. de Courteillac 2015 Bordeaux, were very decent wines and good value for money at €5 each. The pack would also make a very nice gift for someone.



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Côtes de Bourg

I have been enjoying the wines of Ch. Falfas for a few years now, and was delighted to receive an email from Terroirs in Donnybrook, mentioning that proprietor and winemaker Véronique Cochran would be showing her wines in their shop.

Véronique is originally from Saumur in the Loire, where her father Francois Bouchet, was the very first biodynamic grower. Given her upbringing it is not surprising all of her wines are biodynamic as well. ‘I could never do it another way’, she says. Their 20-hectare holding is split into two holdings, the largest part surrounding the very attractive Château. She is based in the Côtes de Bourg on the right bank of Bordeaux, and an area that can offer excellent value for money. They have around 55% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon co-planted with 10% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Malbec, all traditional in the area.

I tasted each of her three separate cuvées. The wines were of a very high quality, and well-priced too. Véronique was both charming and knowledgeable. A great way to get the weekend started.

Les Demoiselles de Falfas 2015 €23.50

Made with very little maceration, this is a delicious forward, extrovert wine with bright fresh ripe dark fruits and a good easy finish. Lovely wine and very good value. Vêronique suggests trying it with lighter foods, including tomato-based dishes. This is named in honour of her two daughters.


Ch. Falfas 2012 €29.50

Light elegant nose, refined blackcurrant and plum fruits, good acidity and a lightly tannic finish. Classic Bordeaux just starting to drink very well.


Ch. Falfas 2010 €39

Excellent maturing nose and palate with leafiness, developing sweet red and black fruits, good concentration and finish. Nice wine.


Ch. Falfas 1995 No longer available.

Made by her late husband in a more extracted style, this had a lighter nose, showing real development, a minty, herbal character, and light red fruits. Drinking nicely now, but unlikely to improve further.


Le Chevalier de Ch. Falfas 2011 €59

Made from 750-780 year old vines. Super wine, with everything you look for in a young Bordeaux. Concentrated blackcurrant fruits, a lovely backbone of acidity, structured and firm with excellent length. You could drink this now, preferably decanted, but I would love to try it again in another five years.


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