Posts Tagged Garnacha

The wine trade: ‘It’s hard, but working for yourself makes it all worthwhile’

First published in the Irish Times, Saturday 10th November, 2018

This week, three independent wine retailers, all celebrating some kind of anniversary. Clontarf Wines opened for business five years ago, and was run by Ronnie and Helena Carragher. Ronnie was one of the true gentlemen of the wine trade a man with a wonderful dry wit. Sadly he passed away recently. In his stead, local boy James Tobin is now in charge, still assisted by Helena. Tobin spent the last twelve years working in O’Briens Wines, and managed several stores. “It is absolutely amazing and fulfilling”, says Tobin. “It is hard work and long hours, but working for yourself makes it all worthwhile. I always admired the shop and what Helena and Ronnie had done with it. I grew up in Clontarf and live here, so it is great to be back home again. The shop is small, but beautifully laid out, with a treasure trove of really interesting wines, as well as cheeses, cold meats and other edible goodies.

Red Nose Wine was set up by Gary Gubbins 10 years ago. An electronic engineer, he found himself working and living in Paris. “It was there that the wine bug really hit off” he says, “We would spend weekends in the Loire, Bordeaux and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Then I became friendly with a local bistro owner whose father had left him a cellar-full of old Burgundy. Over the next two years I drank nearly every bottle. The irony is that now, working in the wine trade, I cannot afford to drink Burgundy any more!”

Returning to his native Clonmel, Gubbins opened online retailer and wine warehouse Red Nose. “As the economy worsened, the value was all from the south of France, then Spain, Portugal and Italy. Although we still import Bordeaux, the Mediterranean is a big part of what we do. We tend to work with small family places, and often import our wines with online specialist Curious Wines.”

This year Martin’s Off-Licence in Fairview celebrates 40 years in business.  Founded by the late Tom Martin, it is now run by the second generation, brothers Damian and Declan. As part of the anniversary celebrations, they launched a series of Portrait Project beers, featuring pictures of his favourite places around Ireland. Known as one of the best places to buy craft beer, Martin’s also stock a wide and eclectic range of wines; regular readers will know that they frequently feature as stockists in this column. Last year they won the prestigious  “Best Off Licence in Dublin 2018”.

 Declan has been working here for 20 years, but really “since I was a baby. I did a lot of travelling and when I returned it was great to have the family shop waiting for me. The business has changed completely –the range of spirits, beers and wines available to the consumer is incredible, if anything too big at times”.

Viña Zorzal Garnacha 2017, Navarra    
13%, €13.75-13.95
Gorgeous pure dark plums and blackberries with a spicy touch on the easy finish. Refreshing and very moreish. A good burger, sausage and mash, or macaroni cheese.
Stockists Clontarf Wines, Dublin,; La Touche, Greystones, Co Wicklow,; Deveney’s, Dundrum, Dublin; Crafted Deli and Café, Bennettsbridge, Co Kilkenny

Octavio Rubé 2015, Vino Rosso
12.5%, €14.99-15.99
A natural wine that Declan Martin sells “with a warning”. It is funky with light juicy bitter cherries, nice grip and a refreshing acidity. Try it with white meats or charcuterie.
Stockists Martin’s Off-Licence, Clontarf, Dublin,, Clontarf Wines, Dublin,; Baggot Street Wines, Dublin,; the Corkscrew, Chatham Street, Dublin,; Le Caveau, Kilkenny,; Fallon & Byrne, Exchequer Street, Dublin,; Green Man Wines, Terenure, Dublin,; World Wide Wines, Waterford,; 64 Wine, Glasthule, Co Dublin,; Redmonds, Ranelagh, Dublin,

Chateau de Valcombe Blanc 2017, Costières de Nimes
13.5%, €16.99
Wonderful subtle elegant dry white with succulent peaches and pears, balanced perfectly by a mineral acidity. With grilled salmon steaks.
Stockists Red Nose Wine, Clonmel, Co Tipperary,

Il Muro Chianti Riserva 2015, Fattoria il Muro
13.5%, €19.95
Smooth ripe dark cherry and cassis fruits with toasted coffee and dark chocolate. Try it with grilled sirloin steak with mushrooms.
Stockists Red Nose Wine, Clonmel, Co Tipperary,; Curious Wines,; Ardkeen Quality Food Store, Waterford,; Cass & Co, Dungarvan, Co Waterford,

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Grenache – the perfect winter wine

First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 25th November, 2016

I gave a candlelit tasting to a wine club in Cork recently, post-Ophelia and pre-David. The subdued lighting was enforced, as Fleming’s Hotel had been without electric power for several days. It was a lot of fun, helped I suspect by the intimate atmosphere. The wines, all Beaujolais, were great, but I cannot help thinking  that on such a miserable windswept wet evening, we should really have been drinking Grenache. Grenache (or Garnacha as it is known in it’s native Spain) deserves to be far better known. Big, rich and rounded, with sweet strawberry fruits, these are crowd-pleasing food-friendly wines that are perfect for cold-weather drinking.

 Thin skinned and full of sugar, ripe Garnacha grapes make for powerful, heart-warming wines, usually with soft-easy-drinking fruit and a very low tannin count.

You can drink it without food, but as it often has a generous level of alcohol – 14-15% is normal – it really is a dinner wine. If you are wondering what wine to serve this Christmas, Garnacha would not be a bad choice; it goes very well with turkey and all of the trimmings too. It is also a happy companion to pub-grub – burgers, steak and kidney pie, ribs, sausages and mash, as well as most stews and casseroles. This would include a Provencal daube of beef, a Spanish lamb and bean stew, tagines and others, but it is a great partner for classic Irish lamb and beef casseroles.

 You will generally find Garnacha in warmer climates as it needs plenty of sun to ripen fully. Australia has some very old vineyards in the Barossa and McLaren vale; the Willunga below is made from 100 year-old vines.

Sardinia (where they call it Cannonau) also produces excellent warming wines. But the true home of Garnacha is Spain and France, where it is very widely grown, and often sold at rock-bottom prices. You won’t always see the name on a label, because in both countries, it is generally blended with other varieties. This includes high-quality regions, such as Rioja and Priorat in Spain, and Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas in France.

Bargain hunters will head for Côtes du Rhône, which  generally has at least 50% Grenache in its makeup, often more, and regions such as Campo de Borja and Calatayud in Spain. Most independent retailers and the multiples will offer both for €10-15. Keep an eye out for one of my favourites, Borsao Garnacha, (€13.95 Bradleys, Cork, Searsons and others) and the Flor de Anon Campo (€14.99, SuperValu), and Cruz de Piedra (€13.95, O’Briens). But possibly the best value of all are the many blends from the Rhône valley and Languedoc.

Tesco Old Vine Garnacha 2016, Campo de Borja

14%, €9

Layers of full-on warm ripe plum fruits a little vanilla and a smooth finish. Drink by itself but better with a lamb casserole.
Stockists: Tesco

Jean Claude Mas Grenache Noir IGP d’Oc

13.5%, €8.99

This has some very attractive smooth, rich black fruits and a nicely rounded finish. This would go nicely with chicken (and turkey) dishes.

Stockists: Aldi (for a selected period each year).

Willunga 100 McLaren Vale Grenache 2015, Australia

14,5%, €16.95

A heady mix of ripe strawberries, spice and dried herbs in a smooth full-bodied wine. A big smiling mouthful that will keep the winter blues away.
Stockists: O’Briens; Blackrock Cellar; Donnybrook Fair; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Martins, Fairview;

La Bruja de Rozas 2015, Viños de Madrid, Commando G

14.5%, €23

 Grown on granite soils, this is a very different, wonderful full-bodied wine with fresh fragrant red cherry fruits and fine dry tannins on the finish.
Stockists: 64Wines; Green Man Wines; The Corkscrew; Clontarf Wines; Kellys, Clontarf

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Glug and Grill – Barbecue Wines

Glug and Grill – Barbecue Wines

First published in the Irish Times, Saturday April 30th

I had my first barbecue of the year a month ago; a whole chicken stuffed with garlic and lemon. It was simple but delicious, the skin crisp and burnished. You can cook on the barbecue throughout the year (I know people who use it for the Christmas turkey) but once the sun comes out it becomes a much more attractive method of cooking. The Irish barbie is no longer a few sausages and burgers incinerated on a grill. Not only do we cook everything from fish to vegetables, many now have proper smokers or at least woodchips to add smoky flavours to a charcoal-powered covered cooker.

I divide my barbecue wines into three categories. There is no getting away from the idea of matching a big, powerful red with barbecued red meat. Smoked or heavily marinated and spicy meat probably demands the biggest wines of all. For inspiration, look to sunny countries and how they match their wine and food. Shiraz from Australia, malbec from Argentina and zinfandel from California are all classic partners.

With fish and chicken a rich white wine or a rosé is called for. I probably do not pay rosés enough attention in this column. I could blame the weather but I have to admit I am not a big fan generally. There are some very pricey pinks from Provence and elsewhere, but I am not convinced they are worth the money.

However, rosés can be great with grilled or barbecued shellfish, fish and chicken, especially if those with an Asian or Middle-Eastern marinade or rub. They also go very well with all sorts of salads, so they are a good catch-all summer wine. If you want to stick with white wine, a chardonnay (lightly oaked wines and smoke) or a rich viognier are probably the best options. You could serve a light, chilled red wine, such as a pinot noir, with grilled salmon or tuna.

My final barbecue wine does not go with any of the food; it is the aperitif! Charcoal always takes far longer to get ready than you think, and some foods, chicken in particular, must be thoroughly cooked (my best friend is a digital thermometer), so make sure you have something to drink while waiting for the food to be ready.

Avoid big, alcoholic wines, or you and your guests will be sprawling long before the food is ready. A light, well-chilled refreshing white wine is ideal; a Mosel riesling Kabinett, if you are having nibbles, or you could think about a lightly chilled beaujolais or Loire cabernet, or again a rosé, as they tend to be light in alcohol. This week’s wines are not expensive. I save my best wines for other occasions.

DSCF6516Borsao Campo de Borja Selección 2014, Spain

A delicious fruit bomb of a wine; supple, juicy, ripe and very gluggable.

Stockists: Searsons, Monkstown

DSCF6499Exquisite Pinot Noir Rosé 2015, Marlborough, New Zealand

Light summery strawberry fruits with a dry finish. With fish and white meats.

Stockist: Aldi

DSCF6519Espigueiro Vinho Verde 2015, Portugal

Perfect summer sipping wine; light, crisp, and sprizty.

Stockists: Wilde & Green, Milltown; John Doyle, Gorey; Mitchell & Son, chq, Sandycove & Avoca Kilmacanogue.

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Borsao Garnacha Seleccíon 2013, Campo de Borja

Borsao Garnacha Seleccíon 2013, Campo de Borja

DSCF6516Borsao Garnacha Seleccíon 2013, Campo de Borja
€13.95 from Searsons, Monkstown

The label is fairly dazzling, and so is the wine. Campo de Borja produces large quantities of big ripe warming red wines, usually made from Garnacha. Along with Tempranillo from La Mancha, they represent some of the best value red wines available. Not just from Spain, but from anywhere. This is a classic of the style, with more fruit and intensity than most of the supermarket versions. Big, rounded and ripe with soft spicy strawberry fruits and a very decent supple finish. Great value for money, and perfect for barbecued meats.

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Finca el Paso Garnacha 2015, Carineña

Finca el Paso Garnacha 2015, Carineña

Image 513.5%

Lovely ripe juicy strawberry fruits with a tannin-free finish. Light enough to drink on its own, but big enough to take on red meats. This would be perfect if you are having a gang around.

Available from Searsons Wine Merchants, Monkstown; 64 Wine, Glasthule; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; The Drink Store, D7; The Wine Shop at One Pery Square, Limerick.

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