Posts Tagged Roka

Irish wines to try this Christmas

First published in The Irish Times, December 15th, 2017

Kildare-based winemaker is Simon Tyrrell has been making wine in the Rhône valley for five years now.

Kildare-based winemaker is Simon Tyrrell has been making wine in the Rhône valley for five years now.

A bottle of Irish wine arrived on my doorstep yesterday evening. It wasn’t actually made in Ireland, but the winemaker lives in Co Kildare. For many years, a number of Irishmen have owned properties in France and elsewhere; Lochlainn Quinn at Ch. de Fieuzal, Paddy McKillen at Ch. La Coste and Gay McGuinness at Domaine des Anges. More recently I came across Maze wines from California, owned by Sligo businessman Gerry McSharry, and his son Paul, who lives in Napa and makes the wines.

But now wannabe winemakers will be pleased to know that you no longer need to move abroad to fulfill your life’s ambitions. Earlier this year, I wrote about several Irish winemakers who have managed to combine living here in Ireland with winemaking abroad. Sinéad and Liam Cabot bought a house and small vineyard in Slovenia in 2007 and made their first wine three years later. They do everything themselves, from pruning the vines to bottling the wine while still living most of the year in Westport, where they run a wine-importing business.  Last week, their three Roka wines, from Stajerska in Slovenia, received rave reviews from renowned critic Jancis Robinson (see The wines include a delicious scented racy Furmint, a crisp floral Laski Rizling, and a red wine, a beautiful pure Blaufränkisch. All sell for €16.99 in independent wine shops.

Also from Mayo is Roísín Curley, where she helps run the family pharmacy in Ballyhaunis. Her two wines from Burgundy, a white St. Romain and a red Beaune, are excellent, but sadly in very short supply. You could try looking in Sweeney’s in Glasnevin, Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, 64 Wines, Glasthule and other independents. Expect to pay around €50 a bottle.

The ‘Irish’ wine that arrived last night is called Oludeo La Soñadora, and comes from Spain. The Kildare-based winemaker is Simon Tyrrell, who has a degree in winemaking from Plumpton College in East Sussex, and has been making wine in the Rhône valley for five years now. The 2016 version of his Les Deux Cols Alizé (see below) is excellent. More recently, with several colleagues in Ireland, he bought three hectares of vines in the southern Rhône. The first vintage is currently fermenting away.

Oludeo 2016, La Soñadora, Yecla, Spain
€16.99 from Searsons, Monkstown; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock.
A rounded medium to full-bodied wine with a certain elegance, combined with abundant dense dark fruits, a touch of liquorice and smooth tannins on the finish. Enjoy now with red meats, or keep a year or two.

Alizé 2016, Les Deux Cols, Côtes du Rhône
€16.95 from Searsons, Monkstown; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Cinnamon Cottage, Cork; Drink Store, D7; Lilac Wines, Clontarf; Donnybrook Fair; Green Man Wines, Terenure; Martin’s, Fairview; Ardkeen, Waterford.
Also from Simon Tyrrell. Extravagantly perfumed, with smooth rich ripe red fruits, a delicious refreshing note and a lingering finish. Lovely wine.

Posted in: Irish Times

Leave a Comment (0) →

Wine, women . . . and Mayo

Pharmacist and wine maker Róisín Curley

First published in The Irish Times, November 2017

Róisín Curley is a pharmacist, working in the family business in Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo. At the same time, she makes her own wines in Burgundy, one of the most prestigious French wine regions of all. “It began with a simple love of wine,” says Curley, “and a need to know more, which in turn led to the WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) wine courses.” This is the standard path taken by many Irish wine lovers, but Curley took it a lot further. She studied for a masters (and was awarded a scholarship) in viticulture and oenology in Montpellier and Geisenheim Universities in France and Germany.

This was followed by a year at Château Latour in Bordeaux, comparing standard and organic viticulture for her thesis, and then a vintage in Château Grillet in the northern Rhône.

She chose Burgundy as her winemaking home through a series of coincidences. “It was never a dream,” she says, “because I never even thought I could dream about making wine in Burgundy. I am a huge fan, my favourite red grape is Pinot Noir and I love Chardonnay. But it was never my intention from the start to do what I am doing.” She had friends and contacts in Burgundy, and was introduced to the owner of a winemaking facility, who rents out space to small winemakers.

“It snowballed from there. All the time I was pinching myself; I never even tried to do this because I didn’t think it would be possible.”

“I don’t need to be in Beaune all the time. Obviously, I have to be there for the harvest and winemaking, but I have a space that is fully staffed, a whole support system that I can call on anytime I want.

“The toughest part is sourcing the grapes… no actually, to be honest, the toughest part is the French system and the fact that you are dealing with grapes and alcohol. It is so tightly regulated and difficult. The best way to find grapes is to meet the growers and make friends with them. My St. Romain is from guys I know really well. They farm organically too. I go to the vineyards, but they pick the grapes.”

Curley’s first releases are from 2015, hailed as a great vintage in Burgundy. However, 2016 was a different story. “My Beaune vineyard was destroyed by hail and frost; I made no wine.” She did make Saint Romain however. “2017 is fine, I have equal amounts of both, and even some Nuits Saint Georges. Burgundy is in huge demand at the moment and the last three vintages have been small. It is becoming harder and much more expensive to buy grapes. The price of my St. Romain has doubled in a few years.”

Curley’s first two releases, a white St. Romain and a red Beaune Clos des Rouards, both from the 2015 vintage, are excellent, superior to many more expensive wines from better-known producers in the region. Anyone interested in trying Ballyhaunis Burgundy will need to buy quickly; Curley made a mere 300 bottles of the white and 1,500 bottles of red.

Winemaker Sinéad Cabot
Winemaker Sinéad Cabot

Sinéad Cabot is another female Mayo winemaker. Newry-born, she landed in Westport via a few years in Dublin, where she and her husband Liam ran a bespoke wine shop in the IFSC. They moved their import and distribution wine business and fine wine company to the west, from where they now supply restaurants, hotels and retailers with a hand-picked range of wines – including their own.

“We work with smaller independent producers, often from less well-known regions. In the recession people went back to inexpensive wines – we had to adapt and change, but we still held on to as many interesting wines as possible. The ‘green shoots’ happened when those wines started to move again.”

In 2007, the couple bought a house with 1.5 hectares of vines in Kog, one of the best wine-producing regions in Slovenia, and began making wine. They are completing their seventh vintage. They do everything themselves – from pruning to harvesting and bottling.

Cabot becomes animated when talking about making wine. “Growing grapes and making wine is an emotional investment, I am fascinated by the whole enterprise.

“You have to prune every vine differently and try to understand it. This year was very hot and we thought we would harvest early but the last few weeks were cooler with some rain, so it all slowed down. You really want to get the juice into the cellar, but if the grapes don’t taste right you don’t pick, no matter what the numbers say. We work in a very natural way, we don’t add anything, so clean healthy grapes are essential.”

She is very happy with the newly bottled 2016 vintage and 2017 is already looking good in the cellar.

The wines, which go under the name Roka (Slovenian for ‘hand’) are very good, and have featured several times in The Irish Times. It is not just home team cheering though – last year the wines received a very high score of 17/20 from Jancis Robinson, one of the most well-regarded critics in the wine world.

Maureen O’Hara hails from Killala in north Mayo and returns regularly to catch up with family and friends. “I love going back,” she says. “The whole area is buzzing with the Atlantic Way, with new cycle routes, cafés, restaurants and pubs.” But these days, O’Hara works in Dublin, running Premier Wine Training.

Maureen O’Hara, founder of Premier Wine Training
Maureen O’Hara, founder of Premier Wine Training

“When I was growing up, you were either a guard or a teacher – I was too small to join the Gardaí so I was going to be a home-economics teacher. We had a B&B at home so I used to help with cooking. At the last minute, I decided to study marketing, the buzz word at the time.”

She gained a degree in business management from Trinity. “When I came out of college I started working with Britvic Orange, calling into pubs, then I moved on to a wine company, selling quarter bottles of wine.” The company sent O’Hara on a wine course, and she was hooked.

A 14-year stint in marketing with Findlaters followed. “I loved it, wine was special at that stage. You got a real thrill seeing someone ordering your wine in a restaurant. For most people, it was a treat. It was exciting – I travelled the world and learned from some great people.”

O’Hara moved on but saw the clouds coming when the recession hit. “I could see everyone downsizing so I got out of what I was doing and, having got the necessary qualifications, set up Premier Wine Training. I had been teaching part-time for 15-20 years and really got a kick out of it. I love standing up in front of people telling them the stories and explaining what great wine is all about.”

Wine has become so commonplace some people see it as just another product, anathema to O’Hara. “Wine is all about hand-selling a unique product with a genuine story. I love being part of that.”


Maison Curley Saint Romain 2015

Medium-bodied with peaches, subtle grilled nuts and lanolin, balanced perfectly by precise, clean, refreshing citrus acidity, lingering very nicely in the mouth. Superb white Burgundy.

€52.99 from Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; 64 Wine, Glasthule; Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown; Donnybrook Fair.

Maison Curley Beaune Clos des Rouards 2015

Attractive fragrant aromas, with silky smooth dark cherry fruits, with good concentration and structure. Delicious ripe, elegant wine that will keep a few years, but dangerously drinkable right now.

€48.99 from Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; 64 Wine, Glasthule; Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown; Donnybrook Fair.

Roka Furmint 2016, Stajerska, Slovenia

Crisp acidity balances the light peach fruits and musky spicy ginger. Delicious, refreshing, racy wine.

€16.95 from Cabot and Co, Westport (; Grapevine, Dalkey; 64 Wine, Glasthule; McCambridges, Galway; No 1 Pery Square Limerick.

Roka Blaufränkisch 2016, Stajerska, Slovenia

An explosion of juicy dark blackcurrants and morello cherries with a reviving acidity and a hint of spice.

€16.95 from Cabot and Co, Westport ( Grapevine, Dalkey; 64 Wine Glasthule; Tartare Café & Wine Bar, Galway; No 1 Pery Square Limerick.

See for details of Maureen O’Hara’s wine courses.

Posted in: Irish Times

Leave a Comment (0) →

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;


Posted in: Blog

Leave a Comment (0) →

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.

Posted in: Blog

Leave a Comment (0) →

A Few Days in Slovenia


I was enchanted by my first visit to Slovenia a decade or so ago and had been trying unsuccessfully to return ever since. This is a really beautiful country that also produces some seriously good wines; sadly we do not see nearly enough of them in Ireland. The following is a short(ish) summary of a fairly relaxed three day trip to Stajerska, organized by Sinéad and Liam Cabot, who import most of these wines, and make their own wines there too!


Stajerska is in the south-east corner of Slovenia, a twenty-minute drive from Austria and Hungary, and two minutes from Croatia; the border has a recently erected (very sharp) barbed wire fence running right the way along, although it is now unmanned, as refugees are now stopped at the Macedonian border. The inhabitants would once have considered the city of Graz as their capital rather than Ljubljana, and German is the default language. As mentioned above, this is one of the prettiest wine regions, with rolling green hills covered in vines, forest, fields of pumpkin and maize, dotted with substantial prosperous well-maintained farmhouses, each with its own immaculate kitchen garden. In June, there was still enough rain to keep everything verdant. Apparently it becomes much drier and hotter in August. The hillsides provide some excellent and varied sites to grow vines. The people are very friendly and open. It was a joy to walk around the narrow roads on a bright sunny June morning and very hard to leave. This is part of the Pannonian plain that runs through Eastern Austria and Hungary as well, bringing warm, dry Easterly winds.


The newly fenced border between Croatia and Slovenia

The newly fenced border between Croatia and Slovenia


My fist visit was to Verus, a company set up by three former employees of the local large co-operative winery, which is now privately owned. Danilo makes the wine, Bojo the vineyards and Rajko looks after sales. They set up their winery in a bakery owned by a friend, who was closing it down. Set in an industrial estate on the outskirts of town, it is not the most glamorous winery, but a bakery is temperature-controlled, and therefore perfect for winemaking.


Over the last nine years they have built up relationships with some of the best small growers in the region – ‘mainly friends and relatives and we also own some vineyards now’ says Danilo. These are all small parcels located in the Jeruzalem region. Their Sauvignon Blanc, for instance, comes from twenty different plots. The wines are all white with the exception of a small quantity of Pinot Noir.
The winemaking here is very modern, using inoculated yeasts, almost exclusively stainless steel and minimum contact with the air. ‘The first time our wine meets oxygen is when you pour it into your glass,’ says Danilo, ‘this region gives very nice wines with good aromas and fruit – you don’t want to lose them. Everyone likes to talk about the moon and their machinery, but cleanliness is everything if you are making precise wines.’

I have been a big fan of most of the Verus wines in the past, although sometimes I have found them a little too clean and almost confected. However, on the basis of this tasting, not only are the wines very good, they also age very well too. We tasted an excellent 2012 Chardonnay and a wonderful 2007 Pinot Gris. We also tasted a vastly improving Pinot Noir, an intriguing Gelber Muskateller and a very smart dry Riesling. These guys are making some seriously good wines, well worth seeking out.

Puklavec & Friends

This is the old co-operative that all three Verus guys worked for. It is now privately owned by the Puklavec family who were originally involved in the winery back in the 1930s. It is a large company, producing some 4.5 million litres of wine a year, working with 330 growers. In addition they own 150 hectares of their own vines. The large circular building houses a 367,000 litre tank, surely one of the largest in Europe. They also have an amazing collection of older wines, stretching back to the late 1950’s. Some of these are available for sale – see The 1990 Sauvignon Blanc looked reasonable at €40.95 a bottle, but I am not sure I can afford the 1959 Pinot Grigio for €1,566!

Liam Cabot & Rok Jamnik of Puklavec

Liam Cabot & Rok Jamnik of Puklavec

We were given a tour by Rok Jamnik one of the winemakers. He gave us some very interesting samples from tank, and a great tasting of his sparkling wines (called Penina in Slovenia) from tank and bottle, including a demo of how to disgorge the plug of yeast from a bottle of sparkling wine in a sink. Sadly given the time constraints, we didn’t get to taste their very wide range of wines, but the sparkling wines were very good. Dunnes Stores and Cassidys did stock some wines from Puklavec & Friends, but no longer. Hopefully we will see them again soon in Ireland.



That evening we had a tasting of 25 wines from all over Slovenia, mainly from Stajerska, but including other regions. Also present were two winemakers, Uros Valcl of Marof winery in Prekmurje (north of Stajerska) and Bojan Kobal from the winery of the same name. It really brought home how interesting Slovenian wine can be; lots of skin maceration for white wines, lots of biodynamics in the vineyard, and plenty of wine made with minimal doses of sulphur. Alongside the wines of the two gentlemen above, which were very good, the wines of Dveri Pax, imported by Wines on the Green, excelled. By the way, both of the above are looking for an importer in Ireland at the moment – happy to pass on details to anyone!

The following day we spent in the vineyard or cellar with Sinéad and Liam Cabot. We have known each other for many years, since they first opened their wine shop in the IFSC, but leaving friendship aside, I was seriously impressed by their viticultural knowledge and winemaking skills. They are a dynamic couple, having somehow managed to move from Dublin to Westport, where they run a successful wholesale wine business (with a list packed with goodies – see supplying many of the finer hotels and restaurants in the west, while also buying a house with a hectare of vines in Stajerska. They seem to play tag-winemaking, with one running the business in Mayo while the other prunes vines, and then swopping roles a few weeks later. This while rearing three children! It all seems to work very well, although it has taken them six years to get the vienayrd into shape. The wines we tasted, many their first or second vintage, were very good.Their first vintage was 2011, the first commercial one 2013, and they have made huge strides in 2015.

Sinéad & Liam amongst the vines.

Sinéad & Liam amongst the vines.

Our tasting covered a range of cask/tank samples, as yet unbottled, including two very good 2015 Šipon (Furmint), a lovely Blaufränkisch, and two very good sparkling wines, one a white made from Sipon, the other a red sparkling wine, made from Blaufrankish ! Not being a fan of sparkling red wine, I expected to hate it, but actually it was very good. These guys are friends, but leaving that aside, I genuinely think they are producing some lovely wines.

Tasting chez Cabot

Tasting chez Cabot

Miro Vino

Miro at his winery

Miro at his winery

Miro lives a five minute walk through a pretty little village from Sinéad & Liams house. His vineyards face eastwards, whereas the Cabots look to the west. Miro has been through a lot over the last decade or more since the. At first, with the assistance of an Austrian winemaker, he increased production and began making modern fruit-driven wines. However a bad experience with a major supermarket chain left him badly bruised, so he took stock and these days is more reclusive and thoughtful, with a unique take on life. He has, I think, been a great friend and advisor to Sinéad and Liam.

‘We try to be as friendly as possible to the wine, and it is then as friendly as possible to us’, muses Miro. He uses indigenous yeasts and very little sulphur in his winemaking. We had a delicious dinner (cooked by his wife Slavica) outside the winery, tasting Miro’s wines throughout. All were interesting and most were very good.

Relaxed Miro

Relaxed Miro

We started with his delicious 2015 Sipon, and then the attractive rich, slightly oily but clean 2015 Totovino (Muller-Thurgau & Muscat Ottonel), a very good 2015 Laski Riesling, an excellent 2015 Pinot Blanc (alongside a more difficult version aged in new oak that needed time). To finish, we tried am intriguing 2002 Sauvignon Blanc – still very alive, crisp and very Sauvignon with honey, beeswax and truffle. Finally a glass of the amazing Fuga Mindi, made from every grape variety he grows, with no added yeats, sulphur – ‘no nothing’, says Miro. ‘It is a wine for the next life’. It fermented for seven years (my bottle at home still starts fermenting every now and again) leaving 11g acidity and 80-90g residual sugar.

This part of Slovenia is fascinating, and makes some great wines. If you do get the chance to travel, there I would certainly recommend you take it. If not, the wines below will do nearly as well! We stayed in a very friendly hotel run by several generations of the Hlebec family in the village of Kog. Father Milan Hlebec distills his own brandy known as Kognac!

Milan Hlebec and his (very good) Kognac

Milan Hlebec and his (very good) Kognac

A few wines to try.
Verus Pinot Gris 2015
€20.99 from Cabot and Co, Westport; Grapevine,

A fresh, floral aromatic nose, rich, plump spicy melons on the palate and a lingering finish. Very good wine. Great with smoked salmon according to one of the sommeliers present.

Verus Furmint/ Šipon 2015
€20.99 from Cabot and Co, Westport; Grapevine,

Šipon did not have a great reputation in Slovenia when we first made this wine’, says Danilo, ‘but with our first vintage we had a great success with Jancis Robinson, which made people sit up. If you keep the yields low and make it carefully, you can get very good wine.’ This wine certainly proves the point; less aromatic with green apple skins, a lovely quality of fruit, finishing long and dry. Seriously good wine. The current 2014 is also very good but in a lighter more refreshing style.


Roka Šipon 2015
Arriving in Ireland late August 2016 rrp €15.99
We tried three cuvées of this wine; each made differently, that will be blended together. I have no doubt it will be very good; all showed lovely plump ripe fruit and a very good backbone of acidity.

Roka Laski Riesling 2015 rrp €15.99
A variety widely grown in Austria, Hungary and Slovenia. Laski Riesling is not always given the respect it deserves. We tasted a number of very good examples on our trip, including a deliciously plump fruity version that Sinéad and Liam will release later this year.

Roka Blaufränkisch 2015
Arriving in Ireland late August 2016 rrp €15.99
This was showing a little new oak, which I am sure will fade, with delicious fresh crunchy blue and dark fruits. Light and very moreish.

Liam Tasting

Liam Tasting

Miro Traminec 2013, Stajerska, Slovenia
€22.50 from Cabot and Co, Westport; Grapevine, Dalkey

I don’t often go for Gewürztraminer or its relatives but this is a lovely wine. It has subtle aromas of honeysuckle, and a clean fresh palate, with honeyed ripe peach fruits. A meditation wine, as is the Fuga Mundi below.

Miro Fuga Mundi 2007, Jeruzalem, Stajerska
€43 from Cabot and Co, Westport; Grapevine, Dalkey

This is a intriguing wine in the very best sense, a mix of figs, raisins and tobacco, a true meditation wine to finish an evening off. I have a bottle beside my computer and reward myself with a glass when I finish off an arduous project.!

Image 1
Dveri Pax Šipon Ilovic 2011, Stajerska Slovenia
€20.99 from Wines on the Green, Dawson St.

This is a single vineyard wine that provides perfect evidence that Šipon can mature well. Nice aromas of smoke and honey, with a delicious maturing palate of ripe exotic fruits, given real backbone by excellent acidity. Given the quality, very good value for money.

Posted in: Blog

Leave a Comment (0) →