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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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St. Patrick’s Day wine weekend

Nothing green here, but a few nice wines.

dscf7402Clos Windsbuhl Gewurztraminer 2000, Domaine Zind Humbrecht

This had been languishing in my stash for a long time, probably because I am not a huge fan of gewurz, nor of white wines that are 15% alcohol (unless its sherry of course). I took a coravined glass, and it was just as I imagined it would be; big, rich textured and sweetish, with plenty of length.

Alpha Zeta Corvina 2015

Light easy refreshing glugger, with dark cherry fruits.

Anthill Farms Tina Marie Pinot Noir 2014, Russian River, California

A present from my sister who lives in California. This might be part of the new wave of lighter more elegant Californian wines we read about. It was very good; light slightly candied ripe cherries, but with a good acidic core, and nice length. Opened out beautifully to reveal a good depth of damson fruit. 13%.

Crozes- Hermitage 2015 Yann Chave

One of my favourite wines for many years, and one that ages very well too. A bit riper and rounder than usual, probably the vintage, but very stylish elegant dark cherry and damson fruits. Will improve with time. €27.95 – will feature in the Irish Times soon.

Quinta dos Carvalhais Encruzado 2015 Dao, Portugal

An oaked aged Encruzado? It works really well, with subtle oak, lovely refreshing acidity and plenty of fruit. Not cheap at €29.99 but very nice wine.


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The delicious white wines of Rafael Palacios


Regular readers will know that I am a fan of both the Godello grape and Valdeorras, the region where most of it is grown. The white wines are amongst the best, if not the best being produced in Spain at the moment (with the obvious exception of sherry). In style, with their mouth-filling fruit and excellent acidity, they have a certain resemblance to Burgundy, although usually without the oak-ageing. The quality of the wines has been recognized over the last few years, and they are now starting to take their place alongside Rías Baixas on discerning wine lists in Ireland. Yet back in the 1970’s, the grape had almost disappeared, replaced by Palomino and Alicante Bouschet. It was largely thanks to a small number of local activists, and two men from Rioja, that Godello was saved from extinction. One of those was Rafael Palacios.

Rafael Palacios is youngest of nine children. Most of the Palacios Remondo family are based in the Rioja region where they run an eponymous wine company, a restaurant and a hotel. Brother Alvaro Palacios is famous for being part of the quintet that revived the Priorat region in Catalunya, and now produces Finca Dofi and l’Ermita, two of Spain’s most revered (and expensive) wines. A nephew runs a joint venture with Alvaro in Bierzo close to Valdeorras. Rafael Palacios was always interested in white wine. On the family estate in Rioja, he pestered his father to allow him produce one; ‘I was young, I was insistent, says Rafale, ‘My father eventually allowed me to do Placet’. The white wine of Bodegas Palacios Remondo quickly became one of the most admired in Spain. ‘Then’, says Rafael, ‘In 1997 or 1998 a bottle of Godello passed my mouth. I found it completely unique as a Galician wine, a balance of Atlantic influences and richness, glycerol and body. With an altimeter in my hand I looked for the highest vineyards in Valdeorras.’

Valdeorras means Valley of Gold – the Romans mined gold here. They planted grapes when they had exhausted the mines. Over the last decade, the area has been completely revived. New plantings and new wineries abound. There are now some 2,000 growers, and 45 wineries. 90% of the wine is consumed in Spain. The climate is mainly continental but does have some Atlantic influences. The best vineyards are high up on the slopes at 500 metres, where the soils are granite and slate. The Palacios vineyards are largely in the granitic soils of Val do Bibei, one of three valleys in the D.O. They now own or farm over 100 separate parcels of vines.


All three Palacios wines are aged in oak barrels, usually 500 litres, but any oak influence is very much in the background. Louro has some Treixadura (another local grape with real potential) blended in. Sadly the entry-level Bolo which sold for a bargain €17, is no more. Reading between the lines of what Palacios said, prices are rising and growers are increasing yields as Valdeorras becomes more popular. It is difficult for him to source good quality grapes (Bolo was partly made from bought-in grapes) at a reasonable price. The 2016 Sorte Antiga is the first vintage of this wine.

Louro 2016, Valdeorras

(tank sample) Made from 17 parcels of vines, vinified separately. Nicely aromatic, with a delicious balance of fresh, lively citrus acidity and fat pure green fruits. Lovely wine. Around €22.


Sorte Antiga 2016, Valdeorras (Cask Sample)

Made from a small plot of ungrafted, gobelet-trained vines planted in 1920. It took Palacios ten years to bring the vineyard back to production –‘a very emotional wine for me’ he says. There was some skin contact in the winemaking. A quite stunning wine, with grippy, slightly pithy skins, a very saline intense mineral backbone and amazing length.



As Sortes 201, Valdeorras

Ripe rich melon and peach fruits, subtle grilled nuts, with a lovely elegant minerality and nice grip on the finish. Around €50


As Sortes 201, Valdeorras

The current vintage, and one of the stars. It has a brisker, more mineral feel than the 2015 at the moment, but still has plenty of voluptuous melon and stone fruits to back up the vibrant acidity. A great wine. Around €50


Sorte O Soro 2015, Valdeorras

A single-vineyard wine, north-facing and very windy, with vines planted in 1978. A herbal nose, hugely concentrated rich succulent fruit, backed up by that minerality finishing with a real flourish. Exceptional wine.


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