Posts Tagged Assyrtiko

Wines from independent producers to try (while you still can)

Most of the really interesting wines are made by small producers, usually a family business with two or three employees. Typically, they grow their own grapes and make their own wine. Europe is coming down with such small enterprises, but you will find them in every wine-producing country around the world.

At the other end of the supply chain, Ireland is populated by smaller wine retailers, sometimes off-licences, sometimes a deli, or frequently a wine specialist. As with many small businesses, most of them lead a fairly precarious life, struggling to compete with supermarkets and symbol groups, who have far greater buying power, and are happy to sell alcohol at very low margins or below cost price. Some of these specialist retailers import their wines directly, but most buy their wines from small importers, usually businesses with anything from one to half a dozen employees.

These three groups have one thing in common: a genuine love of wine, and an interest in producing and selling a quality product. They get a real kick out of making or discovering something new and exciting.

I have nothing against the multiples; they form an important part of the wine business, but if the current regulations regarding back labels contained in the alcohol Bill are approved by the European Union, we may see the end of the specialist wine retailer.


I welcome many of the provisions in the new alcohol Bill, and hope it leads to a more sensible attitude towards drinking in this country. Everything I write about each week is intended to encourage you, the reader, to drink better, and not more. However, I fear the new regulations may simply play into the hands of larger producers and multiple retailers who ship in huge quantities and would have no difficulty adding a back label at source.

But for smaller producers and specialist importers, it will in many cases be impossible, or prohibitively expensive. I suspect the producers will simply refuse and sell their wine elsewhere. The burden is likely to fall on the importer. Picture yourself in a warehouse, facing a dozen pallets of wine, each with 50 cases, made up of four or five different wines, all requiring different labels. It would take you several days to unpack, label and repack.

The plan, however well intentioned, may actually boost sales of cheaper industrial wines; firstly by introducing minimum pricing, the larger retailers stand to make greater profits, and then by knocking out the competition provided by smaller retailers. Of course, if it were a Europe-wide regulation, and all wines required a back label, the problem would disappear overnight.

This week four wines, made, imported and sold by small independent enterprises; enjoy them while you can.

Kir-Yianni Assyrtiko Mountain Wine 2017, IGP Florina, Greece
13.5%, €20
Elegant floral aromas, exotic fruits with grapefruit zest, plenty of crisp acidity and a dry finish. Perfect with grilled white fish – cod or hake.
Stockists: Grapevine, Dalkey,; The Corkscrew, Chatham St,, Cabot and Co, Westport,

Pinot Grigio 2017, Roberto Fugatti, Trentino, Organic
12.5%, €14.90
A pinot grigio with real flavour; a winning combination of ripe, juicy, honeydew melons and crisp acidity. Great with all kinds of salads or mixed antipasti.        Stockists: Green Man Wines, Terenure,; Sheridan’s Cheesemongers, South Anne St; Kells, Co Meath, Galway;; 64 Wine, Glasthule,; Ely Wine Store, Maynooth; Eleven Deli, Greystones,; Fallon & Byrne, Exchequer St,; Lettercollum Kitchen Project, Clonakilty,; Ashes of Annascaul.

Mas del Perie 2016, Les Escures, Cahors, Fabien Jouves, Vegan & Organic
13.50%, €22.50
Juicy, rounded ripe plum and blackcurrant fruits, with a piquant edge, and soft tannins on the finish. Light and elegant. With pork, either roast or chops.
Stockists: Quintessential Wines Drogheda,; Green Man Wines, Terenure,; 64 Wine, Glasthule,; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock,; Hole in the Wall, D7,

Rayos Uva 2016, Rioja, Olivier Rivière
14%, €18.95 – €20.50
Bright lively and really fresh red with lovely pure plums and dark cherries. Drink alongside lamb chops or a rack of lamb.
Stockists: Bradley’s Off-licence, Cork,; 64 Wine, Glasthule,; Green Man Wines, Terenure,; Lilliput Stores, Dublin 7,; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock,; Liston’s, Camden St,; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock,; Kelly’s, Clontarf,; Nectar Wines, Sandymount; The Corkscrew, Chatham St,


Posted in: Irish Times

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Ovilos 2012 Ktima Biblia Chora, Pangeon, Greece

<strong>Ovilos 2012 Ktima Biblia Chora, Pangeon, Greece

OvilosOvilos 2012 Ktima Biblia Chora, Pangeon, Greece
€25.99 from Wines on the Green, Dawson Street; Baggot Street Wines; Jus de Vine Portmarnock.

Textured and rich with creamy peaches and apricots and all the requisite balancing acidity. A delicious harmonious wine full of character.

Big enough to handle white and richer fish dishes. We had ours with barbequed chicken.

Please don’t let the price put you off; this is a fantastic wine and worth every cent. I see I made it a wine of the week twice, once in the Irish Times, and once on this site a year go. It has only got better with time. A blend of 50% Semillon and 50% Assyrtiko, the latter a highly rated indigenous Greek grape variety.

Posted in: Top Drop

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Islands in the Sun

Islands in the Sun

First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 21st May, 2016

From its probable birth over 8,000 years ago in the Caucasus, vine growing and wine drinking was spread, by the Phoenicians, and later the Greeks and Romans, around the entire Mediterranean. Wine sustained empires and provided its inhabitants with something safe to drink.

By the time you read this column, I will be down at the Ballymaloe Litfest 2016, the third year of this excellent event. On Sunday lunchtime I will be giving a talk and tasting entitled Islands in the Sun.Since a visit to Pantelleria a decade ago, I have been fascinated by the island wines of the Mediterranean. Wine was produced on virtually every island of any size, many of them volcanic. Despite being surrounded and ruled by various competing powers, many have developed a separate identity, with undiscovered indigenous grape varieties producing unique wines.

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean. Once a source of cheap bulk wine, it is now home to some of the most exciting producers, on the slopes of Mount Etna in particular. Sardinia was ruled for four centuries by the Spanish kingdom of Aragon (as was Corsica). As a result, Sardinia’s most famous red wines are made from Cannonau, the local clone of the Spanish Garnacha.
The best white wines comes from the Vermentino (known as Rolle in France) grape, a variety that retains acidity in warm climates, and is showing great potential both here and in Corsica as well as mainland France and Italy. The wines of Corsica are less easy to find. The lesser wines go under the wonderful title of Ile de Beauté. The more expensive wines tend to stay on the island, or can be found on mainland France.

Moving to Greece, the island of Santorini once supplied Eucharistic wines to the Russian Orthodox church. Today, this arid windy volcanic outcrop produces some unique fresh, crisp mineral dry white wines from the indigenous Assyrtiko grape. The vines are formed into basket-like circles that stay close to the ground.

Pantelleria is a small volcanic island that is closer to the coast of Africa than Sicily. Here the ancient practice was to shield vines from constant wind by digging small craters in the volcanic rocks. The Muscat grapes, called Zibibbo here, are dried in the sun, before being fermented into a luscious sweet wine.

This is only scraping the surface. There are so many more. For the tasting I have sourced wines from Corsica, Malta, the Canaries, as well as those below. Space does not permit me to cover them all here, but if you are free this Sunday, why not come along?

DSCF6559Pinot Noir Réserve 2015, Ile de Beauté, Barton & Guestier
€11.99 (sometimes offered at €9.99)

Light juicy easy red fruits with a refreshing acidity. Perfect summer drinking.

Tesco; C&T Supermarkets; Carpenters, Castleknock; Amber,Fermoy; Joyce’s, Galway.

Image 3Gaia Wild Ferment Assyrtiko , Santorini 2015

Fresh floral and mineral, Chablis-like with crisp fruits and a lingering dry finish.

Stockists: O’Briens

Image 4Tenute Dettori Vino Renosu Rosso NV, Sardinia

Delicious welcoming warm herb-scented wine with soft red fruits.

Stockists: 64wine, Glasthule.

DSCF6556Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico 200, Azienda COS, Sicily

Soft smooth strawberry and plum fruits overlaid with dark chocolate. Wonderful wine.

Stockists:; No. 1 Pery Sq.; Market 57; Grapevine, Dalkey; Corkscrew; Red Island; Listons.

Posted in: Irish Times

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