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My (alcohol free) Elixir of Life

My (alcohol free) Elixir of Life

New season extra virgin olive oil.

For the last couple of years I have been given, or bought, a few bottles of new season Tuscan extra virgin olive oil. It has become one of my favourite seasonings at this time of the year.

In the past, most wine producers in Chianti Classico and elsewhere in Tuscany produced both wine and olive oil. More recently David Gleave of wine importers Liberty encouraged a handful of top estates to make high quality oil; Liberty then release the new vintage every November or December (The River Café in London are huge fans, and even have their own bottling). In some ways, it is a pity that it cannot be released freshly pressed the following summer when the salad season is in full flow. However, it is a great addition to the store cupboard in winter and spring. I have been come quite addicted to it and drizzle it at the last minute on a variety of foods, from beans, pasta dishes with courgettes, cauliflower, peppers or on plain pasta with Parmesan, roast vegetables, steak and a host of other dishes. It brightens up just about everything, adding a slightly bitter peppery kick and a pure fruity richness. With a sprinkle of pepper and salt, it becomes a perfect dressing for any winter salad too. I am sure I remember reading that extra virgin live oil is full of anti-oxidants and all sorts of other good things, so it could be classified as the most delicious of all health foods.


The oils are expensive – €20 or more for a bottle of half-bottle, but they last a while. Not too long though; they will last a year or more but I reckon they should be finished by early summer. Check the back label for a harvest date – 2016 is what you want.

Earlier this year, David Gleave of Liberty gave a group of us an olive oil tasting in Jamie’s Italian in Dundrum. The names included Alpha Zeta, Capezzana (delicious) Petrolo, Fèlsina, and Fontodi. My favourite was the Fontodi, an organic oil, and I have a ½ bottle of that in my kitchen, but to be honest I would have been happy to have a bottle of any of these.

They are available from Fallon & Byrne; Jamie’s Italian; 64 Wine, Glasthule; Lotts & Co, D4; Thomas’s ,Foxrock, Jus De Vine, Portmarnock; Clontarf Wines; Blackrock Cellars; Terroirs, Donnybrook; Green Man Wines, Terenure; Ballymaloe Garden Café; Red Island, Skerries; Grapevine, Dalkey; Sweeney’s, Glasnevin; Hole in the Wall, D7; Redmonds of Ranelagh; Cirillo’s, Baggot Street.


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Tasting Dao & Friends to Dinner – the weekend in wine


Trimbach Reserve Riesling 2010 – this featured in my wine guide this year. A great mature waxy, nutty bone dry Riesling that retails for €23. Went very nicely with prawns and a Japanese cucumber and seaweed salad.

Four wines from Dão, part of a tasting for an Irish Times article. The region produces some lovely refreshing red and white wines.

Santenay 1er cru Clos Rousseau Les Fourneaux VV 2013, Bachey-Legros – around €30 from Le Caveau, this was quite closed with spicy dark cherries and a savoury edge. Good but not great – I suspect it will improve over the next year or two, and I probably should have decanted it. Nice wine though.

Castello di Fonterutoli 2004, Chianti Classico,  Mazzei – I bought six bottles of this ten years ago. You’d need 20/20 vision to read the vintage. It was very good, medium to full-bodied, with a good tannic backbone and dark chocolate and slightly earthy very ripe dark fruits. Went well with roast lamb.

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Burgundy, Cava, Garnacha, low alcohol wine and others – the weekend in wine.


Villa Maria Lighter Sauvignon Blanc Private Bin 2016, Marlborough

Lighter (9.5% alcohol) but still quite rich and a little sweet. It does capture the flavours of modern-day Marlborough Sauvignon. My daughter served it at her first dinner party and it went down very well. €14.99, €11 on promotion.

Segredos de Sâo Miguel, VR Alentejo

Portugal makes some very good value inexpensive red wines; this has attractive cool nicely damson fruits and a tannin-free finish. His will certainly feature again.

Agustí Torelló Mata Reserva 2011 Cava

This is the best cava I have tasted in a long time. An excellent, elegant complex glass of fizz. Not trying to be Champagne, but with a unique character all of its own. €29 from Sheridans and Mitchell & Son online only.

Marsannay ‘en Clémengeots’ 2011 , Sylvain Pataille

Given to me by Pataille on a visit there a few years back. It took a while to open out, but lovely cool savoury dark fruits, good acidity and an excellent finish. A world away from the lush ripe wines of Vosne-Romanée, but excellent Marsannay.

Vidal Reserve Syrah 2013, Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay

I raved about this wine a year ago, so I was interested to see how it has developed. The answer is very well. Lovely piquant savoury dark fruits with a very attractive slightly grainy texture. Available for €17.35 (Barry & FitzWilliam), which is fantastic value.

El Reventon 2010, Cebreros Jiminez-Landi, Vdt de Castilla y Léon

Brought by a friend to dinner, a brilliant single parcel wine, combining perfectly ripe elegant dark fruits with a fine backbone of acidity. One of the first wines made by Daniel Gomez Jiminez-Landi, a member of the Commando G gang, who make some stunning wines to the south of Madrid.

To finish, two beers to taste while watching the rugby. Could have dome with another bottle.

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Last weekend


A very pleasant weekend, with two lovely light inexpensive Pinot Noirs and three interesting new arrivals from wine importers Vinostito, who know a thing or two about Spanish wine. A good hit rate; I reckon all of these will feature in the future, either in the Irish Times or on my blog.

Windy Peak Pinot Noir 2015 Yarra Valley

Very delicious elegant clean lively dark cherry fruits. At around €16.99 pretty good value too. This will feature as a wine of the week soon.


Safrà 2015, Celler del Roure

Grown high up in the mountains of Valencia, the local Mandó and Garnacha Tintorerra grape varieties make for a surprisingly light (12.5%) fruit-filled wine. Well worth investigating. Will sell for just under €20


Domaine de la Renne Touraine Pinot Noir 2015

A very gluggable light juicy Pinot with a slight earthiness that I enjoyed. Great value for money. €13.75 from Wines Direct


La Bicycleta Voladora 2015, Rioja

Apparently exclusive to 64wine in Glasthule, a delicious unoaked Rioja packed with succulent dark cherry fruits. Made by Germán Blanco, the talented winemaker responsible for the delicious wines from Quinta Milú in Ribera del Duero. (€16.50)


Vía Arxentea Mencía 2015, Monterrei

Missing from the pic above. I wrote about the white version least week. The red, made from Mencía, is equally good. Lovely refreshing red cherry fruits. (€17.50)


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2015 Burgundy – wines to buy before they disappear…


This is an expanded version of an article I wrote for the Irish Times on Saturday 11th February 2017, on the 2015 vintage in Burgundy.


I worry about Burgundy. It produces my favourite red wine, and has probably given me greater pleasure (and at times heartache) than any other wine. But now supply, always a problem at the best of times, is getting worse. And more expensive. Interest in Burgundy from the Far East and elsewhere has exploded, with collectors willing to pay very high sums for the top names. At the same time, a series of small harvests has restricted availability. And now along comes the 2015 vintage, heralded by some as the greatest since 1929. Prices are moving steadily upwards, and quantities are even more limited than usual, 20-30% less than in 2014. A number of Irish importers are currently offering ‘en primeur’ offers of 2015 Burgundy, with more to follow later this year. This means buying a wine that is still in cask, only receiving later this year or in early 2018.

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I traveled to Burgundy last November with Liam & Sinéad Cabot of specialist importer Cabot & Co. The couple work with a range of exciting producers in Burgundy, so we had the opportunity to taste a wide variety of wines. While most people tend to concentrate on red wines en primeur, they also offer some outstanding white wines as well. In addition to their own wines, the Cabots receive allocations from other importers, including a few very good names. They are also awaiting confirmation of an allocation from Georges Noellat one of the most sought-after new stars of Burgundy.

There is no doubt that 2015 was an excellent year for red wines; leaving aside the hype (and there is no shortage of that) most are laden with perfectly ripe, succulent fruit, excellent concentration and good acidic balance. In a generally warm and dry growing season, the biggest danger seems to be low acidity, and an over-supply of sugar leading to high alcohol levels. In a region that traditionally struggled to ripen grapes (and frequently added sugar to increase alcohol levels ) this is an unusual problem.

Two warnings. No matter how good the vintage, poor winemakers can still produce very average wine. Buy from producers (and importers) you feel you can trust. Many of the wines below are available in tiny quantities, so move quickly if you are interested. If you cannot find afford to buy caseloads of wine, keep an eye out for 2014 reds – an underrated vintage for both red and white Burgundy, and if you should happen to come across any from 2010, snap them up; this is an excellent vintage. I would also suggest keeping a few euros for 2015 (and apparently 2016 as well) from the Northern Rhône, as well as exceptional Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) and Riesling from Germany. Having said that, I am certainly going to buy some 2015 Burgundy. Burgundy 2015 is being offered by Burgundy Direct, Cabot & Co., Searsons Wine Merchants and Greenacres. See below for comments on each offer.

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Cabot & Co.

According to Liam Cabot, “2015 is an outstanding vintage – it’s a vintage of pleasure and enjoyment and the wines will drink well from release, yet have the structure to age. Many are comparing it to 2005, but those of a slightly older generation also point as far back as 1949 and 1929. However there are a couple of things bear in mind. Firstly, it’s a ripe vintage which is generally good, but a few wines had excessive extraction. Those who emphasised freshness and fruit purity have produced wonderful wines. Secondly, there is quality all across the hierarchy of appellations – from the entry-level wines to the Grand Crus. Although prices are rising, it is possible to find classic wines that will deliver real pleasure at very reasonable prices. I suppose it was inevitable that prices would rise given the quality of the vintage and also the fact the vignerons now know that 2016 will be a small vintage – so for some it’s a case of “make hay while the sun shines”. That said, some producers have been a bit more in haymaking mode than others!’

Contact Cabot & Co. on 098 37000 or email for a copy of their Burgundy offer. Their others lists are available on their website, My personal highlights from Cabot & Co were as follows:

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Domaine Mugneret-Gibourg

This is a great domaine, run by sisters Marie-Christine and Marie-Andrée Mugneret with their mother Jacqueline. Hard to chose here; all of the wines are impeccable, perfectly ripe and balanced, showing real elegance but with an underlying structure. I have no tasting note for the Bourgogne Rouge, but on past evidence, I would earmark this for drinking over the next few years, and the outstanding Echezeaux or Clos de Vougeot for laying down.


Jean Marc Millot

Jean Marc Millot, now aided by his daughter Alix, makes some beautifully understated wines with wonderful purity of fruit. I have followed the Côtes de Nuits Villages ‘Aux Falques’ for years (currently drinking the lovely 2010) and would certainly buy again. Of the other wines, I loved the fragrant, pure Vosne-Romanée, and the superb Echezeaux, but all are of a very high quality.

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Domaine Livera

The Fixin here is very reasonably priced and with its cool, crunchy dark fruits has what the French call ‘un bon typicité’.


Domaine Voillot

Not the most glamorous estate, but well-made wines at very fair prices. Liam Cabot tells me they age very well too. Here I enjoyed the a lovely classic reasonably-priced Volnay and an excellent Pommard Les Epenots that will certainly repay keeping.


Pierre-Yves Colin Morey

The intense and studious Pierre-Yves Colin Morey recently moved into a large new cellar in Chassagne. From a string of brilliant white wines, I would go for the elegant Saint Aubin ‘Le Banc’, the excellent Chassagne Caillerets, or the stunning Meursault Genévrières. To be honest though I would be very happy to have any of these wines in my cellar; they have an impeccable fresh minerality and elegance.


Burgundy Direct

Conor Richardson of Burgundy Direct is making his 25th Burgundy offer. He says ‘2015 Burgundy is an excellent, possibly an outstanding vintage. Though much hyped, much anticipated and certainly much sought-after, there is always the thought that perhaps ‘excellent’ and / or ‘outstanding’ vintages come around too often to merit such laurels. Skepticism is understandable in what has become an increasingly commercial world, but there will surely be no doubt that wine lovers generally and Burgundy lovers in particular can only be hugely impressed by this very, very fine vintage’.

From the very fine Burgundy Direct offer, I am a huge fan of Ann Gros and her wines, and I would love to have a few cases. I have bought both the Hautes Cotes de Nuits and Bourgogne Rouge before and always been very happy with them. But there is also Robert Chevillon, Patrick Javillier (excellent whites) de Vogué, Marc Colin, Vincent Dancer and Joblot, all excellent producers.

Nomad Wines

Ex sommeliers Charles Derain and Thierry Gillet import an excellent range of wines from Burgundy and elsewhere (see Nomad Wines will wait until June to make his offer. Derain is however, very positive; ‘In Cote-d Or, the yields were quite small too, some areas showed a volume decrease of 20-30% compared to 2014. The grapes were absolutely healthy, beautiful to eat. Everything I had tried was outstanding so far, reminding me of 2005. The wines are coloured with a incredible balance and structure. It will take some time for the wine to settle. I have tried some super Bourgogne Hautes de Beaune and Nuits 2015 that will give some great value.’


Donal Morris reports ‘the reds are superb and certainly the best since 2005 and even surpassing it. They have a lovely purity of fruit, a luscious concentration and are very fragrant.  And this is right across the region.’ From their offer, I would head straight to Benjamin Leroux, one of the new stars of Burgundy, not forgetting Marc Morey, Robert Chevillon, Robert Groffier, Hubert Lignier and many more besides.


Searsons of Monkstown also have a good offer. Here, I would head straight for Tollot Beaut, one of my favourite producers (the Chorey-les-Beaune and Savigny 1er cru generally offer exceptional value) and also to Comtes Lafon, including his excellent wines from the Maconnais. See for full details.



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This year, I intend going magnum where possible on Christmas Day. See below for the plan, and please excuse the poor image.


Bollinger Special Cuvée (Magnum)

For many years, I received a magnum of Bollinger every Christmas from the late Pat Byrne, a friend and colleague in the wine trade. He is greatly missed. The magnum was my fee giving a wine talk to the members of the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, a very nice bunch of people. I would put the magnum away for a year, sometimes two, before opening it up on Christmas morning. This is my final bottle, so I will drink a special toast to Pat, who loved his Christmas dinner. The Champagne should be pretty good too.

Calvarino 2013, Soave, Pieropan (Magnum)

I have been eying this up in my local wines shop, La Touche Wines for the last year or more. I am a huge fan of Pieropan, one of the great white producers of Italy, and have a number of bottles of Calvarino stashed away; it matures beautifully. This one won’t get the chance to age gracefully. It might be a bit light for the seafood – prawn salad I think, but I doubt it. In any case, it will be light and elegant with a mere 12.5% alcohol, keeping everyone sober for the moment.

Viognier de Rosine 2014, Stephane Ogier, Vdp des Collines Rhodanniennes

In case that isn’t quite enough, I will chill a bottle of this wine from Stephane Ogier, also responsible for the wine below. This is made from vines located just outside Condrieu, home to the greatest Viognier in the world, which explains its lowly Vin de Pays status. I have written about the wine before, and it appears in Wilson on Wine 2017. It will provide an interesting contrast to the Soave, although it has the same 12.5% alcohol, less than in most Condrieu.

Côte Rôtie 2010, M&S Ogier (Magnum)

Stephane Ogier is one of the bright stars of the Northern Rhône and 2010 a very good vintage. Possibly a little young, but I will decant it into my magnum decanter, which up until now, has only been used for mere bottles. This was a thank you gift a couple of years ago. I am really looking forward to this.

Clos des Papes 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Magnum)

I am not sure we will need it, but I will have this standing up as a fall-back. A wine with an incredible reputation, from the amazing fine wine room at Jus de Vine in Portmarnock. I last tried this a few years ago down in Kelly’s Resort Hotel, at a tasting tutored by Vincent Avril, the owner of Clos des Papes, and brother-in-law of Bill Kelly. Back then it was very very good, but closed. We shall see.

Quinta do Noval 1970 Vintage Port

I intended opening up a bottle of Fonseca 1970 bought in the 1980’s, when I worked with Mitchell & Son, then located in Kildare Street. I think I have drunk two so far, but there is no rush with vintage port. However, I wasn’t able to get to my cellar, which is located in a (trustworthy) friend’s house, so I will open up this Noval 1970 instead. Some online reviews are very lukewarm, but we shall see. I have plenty of alternatives, including a few nice bottles of sherry.

Ch. Coutet 1989, Barsac (1/2 bottle)

I have a diminishing pile of ½ bottles of assorted Sauternes from my time in Searsons, so I intend opening up my last ½ bottle of this, to drink over a few days.


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My Top Ten Red Wines under €20 for 2016

This post came about as a result of a challenge set by a Twitter follower; to name my top five red wines for under €20. I have expanded it out here to ten wines. All have appeared in the Irish Times or on my blog before, and many in Wilson on Wine 2017, but I thought it might be good to see them all together. Doubtless they will change soon. In the meantime I have bought myself six bottles each of the Dâo, Geil Pinot, and Roka for drinking over the next few months.



DSCF7103Albizu Tempranilllo 2015, VdT de Castilla, Spain


I have a weakness for unoaked (or very lightly oaked) Rioja. I love the lively aroma, the pure cherry fruits and the refreshing acidity. Here they come together in an easy-drinking but sophisticated wine, great for sipping alone or for drinking with a variety or red and white meats. This example, made by a Rioja producer, from grapes grown within the region, doesn’t actually have the name Rioja on the label, but it certainly tastes like it. Worth buying in quantity for the season ahead.


€11.95-€12.95 from Mitchell & Son; Avoca Rathcoole; Le Caveau, Kilkenny; Baggot St wines; Blackrock Cellar; Corkscrew; Fallon & Byrne; Listons; MacGuinness; Green Man; 64 Wines; World Wide Wines.



Sa de Baixo 2014Sa de Baixo 2014, Douro, Portugal       


This has been one of my go-to wines for a few years now, and I know I am not alone; many of our independent wine shops do a brisk trade with it. The label has changed recently, but the wine is just as good . Succulent ripe red fruits with a smooth tannin-free finish. Light harmonious and very quaffable. A good all-rounder to drink by itself or with white meats – creamy chicken with pasta sounds good.


€13.50 from Mortons, Ranelagh; McHughs; Blackrock Cellar; Gibneys, Malahide; Avoca Rathcoole; Wicklow Wine Co.; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Baggot St Wines; DrinkStore, D7; Martins, Fairview; Browns Vineyard, Portlaoise; Red Island, Skerries; Probus, Fenian St; Sweeneys, Glasnevin; 64 Wine, Glasthule.



DSCF6516Borsao Garnacha Seleccíon, Campo de Borja, 2015, Spain


The label is fairly dazzling, and so is the wine. The Campo de Borja region produces large quantities of big ripe warming red wines, usually made from Garnacha. This is a warm hug of a wine. 14.5% alcohol, it is big, rounded and ripe with soft spicy strawberry fruits and a very decent supple finish. Fantastic value for money. Perfect for barbecues and other red meats.



€13.95 from Bradleys, Cork; 64 Wine, Glasthule; Next Door, Arklow; & Searsons Monkstown; Drinkstore, D7.



DSCF7060Acón Joven 2014, Ribera del Duero, Spain


A world away from the big tannic oaky monsters that once made up most of Ribera del Duero. This unoaked ‘young’ wine has forward floral aromas and delicious pure damson fruits. It packs a fair punch too, coming in at 14.5%, but you would hardly know it. Great value for money and perfect with roast lamb and beef.


€14.50 Red Island Wines; 64 Wine; Wicklow Wine Co; Clontarf Wines; Listons, Camden St.




Domaine des NuguesDomaine des Nugues, Beaujolais Villages 2014, France    


Beaujolais is finally coming back into fashion as we seek wines that are lighter in style. I spent a few lovely days in the region earlier this year, tasting the various crus. I also visited this estate. This wine is one of the best, and certainly superior to many of the cheap Fleurie you will come across in the shops. Wonderful aromas and pure sweet red cherry and blackcurrant fruits with a touch of liquorice. Patés, cheese and all things porcine, including belly of pork, ham and boiled bacon, as well as roast chicken.


€16.75 from Martin’s, Fairview; 64 Wine, Glasthule.




Roka BlaufränkischRoka Blaufränkisch 2015, Stajerska, Slovenia


Made by Irish couple Sinéad & Liam Cabot from their own grapes, both this and their equally delicious white Šipon are really good wines, and quite amazing for a first real effort after a few limited releases. The Blaufränkisch is a true vin de soif, with fresh supple cherry and damson fruits, but that really does it a disservice; this is a wine with plenty of depth and concentration. Well worth seeking out.


€16.99 from Cabot & Co;, Westport; No.1 Pery Square, Limerick; Grapevine, Dalkey; The Poppyseed, Clarinbridge; McCambridges, Galway.




DSCF6122Dâo Rótulo 2015, Niepoort, Portugal


If your tastes run to rich full-bodied reds, stay away from this wine. It is a delicious refreshing light red with a savoury edge to the clean damson fruits. Moreish, and with a mere 12.5% alcohol, you don’t have to deny yourself.


€16.99 from Redmonds, Mortons, Martins,Jus de vine, Green Man, Donnybrook Fair, Clontarf Wines, Blackrock Cellar and Baggot Street Wines




DSCF7121Geil Pinot Noir 2015, Rheinhessen


Charming free-flowing light supple sweet cherry fruits with a nice kick of acidity. Try it with salmon, tuna or pork. I have tried this several times in wine bars recently, including La Touche and Grapevine in Dalkey. It seems to suit all tastes, and is light enough be drunk without food.


€16.95-17.95 from La Touche; Grapevine; Mortons; Sweeneys; Redmonds; Wicklow Wine Co; Mitchell & Son; Listons; Jus de Vine; Drinkstore; Corkscrew; Blackrock Cellar; 64Wine.




DSCF5905Ch. Pey-Bonhomme Les-Tours 2012, Blaye – Côtes de Bordeaux, France

This was a really enjoyable wine, classic Bordeaux, with clean blackcurrant fruits, a seam of acidity running through, and a light dry tannic bite on the finish. I had mine with a roast shoulder of pork (Tamworth, from, excellent) and it was very good. I suspect it would be even better with lamb. Affordable well-made Bordeaux.

€19 from Green Man Wines, Terenure; 64Wine, Glasthule; Fallon & Byrne, Exchequer Street; Clontarf Wines; Mortons, Ranelagh.






Quite 2014 BierzoQuite 2014 Bierzo, Veronica Ortega


Medium-bodied and perfumed with fresh clean dark fruits; delicious, but if I was feeling flush I would go for Ortega’s Roc (at €30). I have been on a big Mencía kick for the last few years. I still love the Castro Valtuillé Joven, and the Brezo de Grégory Pérez, both widely available from independents, but I have really enjoyed this several times at home over the last eight months.


€19.50 from 64wine, Glasthule; World Wide Wines, Waterford; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Blackrock Cellars; Clontarf Wines; Drinkstore, D7;


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A Weekend’s Drinking 12th December


Markus Molitor Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2014, Mosel

From one of the finest producers in the Mosel, a delicious vibrant wine, with developing honeycomb to add to the green apple and pear. Excellent acidity keeps it fresh and interesting . 11.5% Vol. The perfect alternative to Champagne on Christmas morning? Imported by Tindal.


Mâcon Villages 2014, Nicolas Maillet

Very attractive well-made wine with easy plump apples, a touch of orange peel and lemon zest. Light elegant and moreish. Yum! €23.25 from Wines Direct.


The Edge Pinot Noir 2015, Escarpment, Martinborough

Light fresh juicy Pinot at a very reasonable price. A posh party wine with nibbles, but went very well with or roast chicken. €19.95 from independents, including Searsons. Imported by Tindal.


Valdecontina Viño de Parcela 2014, Casa Aurora

A Mencía from Germán Blanco, who makes the most wonderful Ribera del Duero. From memory, this is from his grandmothers vineyard in the hills above Bierzo. Excellent , structured cool-climate Mencía with savoury tight dark fruits. Real concentration and grip. Sadly I don’t think it is commercially available. From importer Vinostito


Venus ‘la Universal’ 2011 Monsant Sara Pérez I René Barbier

Two names to conjure with here. René Barbier has been one of the most influential winemakers in Catalonia since the 1970’s; this is his son, who is married to Sara Pérez, daughter of José Luis Pérez, another hugely important figure in Monsant and Priorat. Venus is her project. Made from Carignan, Grenache and Syrah, this is her ‘attempt to interpret femininity, the Earth, through a bottle of wine’, according to her website. If so, she sees femininity in fairly powerful terms. This wine has fresh dark cherry aromas, plenty of body, although not without some elegance, with a strong mineral element that runs throughout. In need of food. Imported by La Rousse.


Vigne Vecchie Nerello Mascalese 2005A.V. Calabretta, IGT Sicilia

A family-owned very traditional estate, located on the black volcanic soils of Mount Etna. When I say traditional, the wines are aged for 6-7 years in large 50-70 hectolitre oak casks, as was once practised by most producers in Barolo and Montalcino. The vines are 70-80 years old, some ungrafted. The result is a wine with a wonderful lifted fragrance, savoury dark fruits and swinging dry tannins on the finish. My wife commented that it needed ten years ageing until I pointed out that it already had that! The next day, those firm dry tannins remained. A fascinating wine but choose your audience carefully. Imported by La Rousse.


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Roka from Liam & Sinéad Cabot

Roka from Liam & Sinéad Cabot

Roka from Liam & Sinéad Cabot

Sinéad & Liam amongst the vines.

Sinéad & Liam amongst the vines.

I have been writing about Roka, the Slovenian wines made by Irish couple Sinéad & Liam Cabot, for the last year or so. Earlier this year, I visited the ‘winery’ – a the garage underneath their house. True garagistes! See my blog of 9th July. Their wines also feature in my latest wine guide Wilson on Wine 2017.

Good to see then that Tamlyn Currin, on, gives two of their wines, the Furmint and Blaufränkisch, scores of 17/20, higher than many top Bordeaux, Burgundy and other fine wines. The Laski Riesling gets 16.5/20.

Her notes are as follows:

Roka Furmint 2015

Riesling-like elegance, focus and rapier intensity on the nose. Pickled lime and ginger. Such a stunning depth of flavour that the hair on my arms stood up when I first tasted this. Salty and lime and wax and lanolin with the sweet-tang vibrancy of apricots picked straight off the tree. A little hint of green fig, and the ginger-root warmth (but not alcoholic heat) prickling through the palate. Rounded but so precise and with razor-edge definition. Cardamom-spiked lime peel lingers on the finish for a long time. (TC)

Roka Blaufrankisch 2015

Beautifully soft black-cherry and pot-pourri nose, so soft and lovely that you want to rub your cheek against it – if red velvet has a smell, this is it. Wonderful juicy intensity that explodes in the mouth with just a smoky hint of star anise and clove. Then a little crescendo of real biting spiciness – chilli and ginger and Szechuan pepper. Fine, tight, glossy tannins that fit the fruit like a second skin. Absolutely delicious. (TC)


Hats off to Liam & Sinéad!  All this for a mere €16.99 a bottle from Cabot & Co, Westport; No.1 Pery Square, Limerick; Grapevine, Dalkey; 64wine, Glasthule.

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A weekend’s drinking December 2016

A weekend’s drinking December 2016


Aldi Exquisite Limoux Chardonnay 2015

Limoux seems finally to have taken off as an appellation, with several of the multiples now offering inexpensive versions. You can also find some excellent smaller domaines, such as Begude in O’Briens. This wine, made by the ubiquitous Jean-Claude Mas, has pleasant rounded apple and pear fruits, good acidity and a very subtle toastiness. For €9.99, excellent value.


Sartarelli Tralivio 2014, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi

Sophisticated textured apricot and apple fruits with a touch of honey, held together nicely by a cleansing citrus acidity. Charming, stylish wine. The less expensive Verdicchio is also worth trying. £12.99/€18.75 from


Rara Avis, Raúl Pérez, VdT de la Tierra de Castilla y Léon

Raúl Pérez has been one of the driving forces behind the renaissance of indigenous grape varieties in Bierzo and Galicia. Most of his wines are individual and brilliant. This wine is made from Albarín, a very rare local grape variety from Léon in northwestern Spain. It is not to be confused with Albariño. Developed wine (no vintage that I can see) with textured grilled hazelnuts and soft stone fruits. I don’t think it is commercially available in Ireland – mine was a gift/sample from wine importers Vinostito.


Silice 2014, Ch. Les Croisille, Cahors

Time was when all Cahors was firm and tannic. How things have changed; you can now come across plenty of juicy ripe wines that are ready to drink in their youth. Fabien Jouves seems to be one of the prime exponents. You can find his wines in Terroirs, Donnybrook and elsewhere. Marks & Spencer had a wine from Ch. Les Croisille for a year or two. This is a different cuvée, available from O’Briens at €15.95. Light juicy and fresh with crunchy dark fruits. Delicious!


Bourgogne 2014 ‘Le Chapitre’ Marchard de Gramont

Light, floral Pinot Noir with elegant dark cherry fruits and a slight earthiness on the finish. Good value at €19.65 from Karwig Wines in Cork.


Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits 2012, Domaine Anne Gros

I bought this in 64wine, for around €35 I think. Anne Gros is one of the top growers in the Côtes de Nuits, with holdings in some of the top sites, including Richebourg, Echezeaux and Clos Vougeot. This wine is from a single vineyard, Concoeur, situated just above the village of Vosne-Romanée. I was a little disappointed at first, but this opened up nicely after half an hour. Pure fresh dark fruits, good acidity and clean length. Nice wine.


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