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
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, onthegrapevine.ie; The Corkscrew, Chatham St, thecorkscrew.ie, Cabot and Co, Westport, cabotandco.com.
Pinot Grigio 2017, Roberto Fugatti, Trentino, Organic
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, greenmanwines.ie; Sheridan’s Cheesemongers, South Anne St; Kells, Co Meath, Galway; SIYPS.com; 64 Wine, Glasthule, 64wine.ie; Ely Wine Store, Maynooth; Eleven Deli, Greystones, elevendeli.ie; Fallon & Byrne, Exchequer St, fallonandbyrne.com; Lettercollum Kitchen Project, Clonakilty, lettercollum.ie; Ashes of Annascaul.
Mas del Perie 2016, Les Escures, Cahors, Fabien Jouves, Vegan & Organic
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, quintessentialwines.ie; Green Man Wines, Terenure, greenmanwines.ie; 64 Wine, Glasthule, 64wine.ie; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, jusdevine.ie; Hole in the Wall, D7, holeinthewall.pub
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, bradleysofflicence.ie; 64 Wine, Glasthule, 64wine.ie; Green Man Wines, Terenure, greenmanwines.ie; Lilliput Stores, Dublin 7, lilliputstores.ie; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, jusdevine.ie; Liston’s, Camden St, listonsfoodstore.ie; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock, blackrockcellar.com; Kelly’s, Clontarf, kellysofflicence.ie; Nectar Wines, Sandymount; The Corkscrew, Chatham St, thecorkscrew.ie.