Tag Archives: Chardonnay


"Stuck in an appellation" Saint Emilion

A day in a wine writer’s life. I get up, dress, eat my porridge then phone the Guinness Storehouse to see if they have a wheelchair. Oh dear, apparently they don’t. I should maybe make it clear that my request stems not from the previous night’s over indulgence but from a knee operation. The Storehouse is The Land That God Forgot for us D4, southside wine scribes – can’t get there by public transport, there’s no parking and a cab costs a fortune. Ah, well, needs must…

I grab my crutches and limp up the road towards the taxi rank. Three traffic jams later I arrive at the Gleesons Incorporating Gilbey’s Portfoilio Tasting, bit of a mouthful? No, it’s a lot of mouthfuls, 41 tables, groaning with wines from all over the world as well as ports, sherries, brandies and beers. Here’s a flavour.

Before I kick off I’ll issue the usual caveat. This is a personal view of a tasting on a particular day. Other folk may love wines I hated or hate wines I loved. Make of it what you will.

Scanning the catalogue I find lots of old familiars, known quantities. This saves me time. For instance, while I know that, say, Les Charmes de Magnol Medoc 2008 is going to be of merchantable quality it won’t excite or surprise so I pass. The Cheval Noir Grand Vin de St.Emilion 2005 (€18.50, selected independents) on did surprise and pleasantly so, good budget claret.

Louis Latour, as usual, have quite a presence but, as ever, I find you have to get into the upper echelons of their list before thye start to charm. Louis Latour Montagny (Super Valu €19.99) is much more inviting than their Chablis. Simmonet-Febre’s Chablis (€18.99, O’Brien’s) was nicer, less steely.

On the Chateau de Sours stand I re-encounter owner Martin Krajewski, nice man. His Petit Cantenac St.Emilion 2008 (€22.50) has plenty of potential. The Bordeaux Rosé,  as always, was well up to the mark (€14.99, independents).

I’m a massive fan of the wines of JCP Malthus as people who read my Herald and the old Sunday Independent columns may have noticed! Bordeaux, Barossa, wherever there’s a roundness, a loveliness, a warmth about them and something that just shouts “Hey, this is bloody good winemaking”.  Area Manager Myriam Carrere tempts me to a vertical – 2006/7/8 – of Ch.Teyssier St.Emilion – I seem stuck in this appellation at the minute – the 2008 promises much but if you can find it, buy the ’06, it’s simply stunning. Entry level Pezat was good as ever. Seems to be some confusion as to whether this and Ch.Lacroix are the same thing. I came away none the wiser.

Can’t help thinking that Jaboulet Ainé have lost their way.Though Caroline Frey has expunged the bad winemaking of Jabs from ‘90s days the newer wines still seem to be struggling to find a house style. Maybe I just liked the big ruggery-buggery wines I remember from the 1980s? Anyhopw, I think they’ve lost something in power, shape and robustness while recovering the finesse that  went missing for so many years.

The delightful Anne Trimbach is in Dublin to present the wines of this brilliant house. Unlike some of their Alsace rivals I can’t think of one wine in their portfolio that doesn’t hack it. Everything is ‘sorted’. Trimbach Alsace Riesling 2009 (€15.99, SuperValu, O’Brien’s, independents) is a classic of the genre.  As for the Cuvée Frederick Emile 2004 (€34.99) every wine lover should have at least one bottle squirreled away for a joyous occasion.

Next table, Gruner Veltiner, Austria’s signature from ex-hippy Laurenz Moser. Named ‘Singing’, ‘Sunny’ and ‘Charming’ (€15.99-€24.99, Donnybrook Fair and independents) the wines are as beguiling as the titles. German wines, happily, are back up and bouncing, after a rocky couple of decades.

Lingenfelder’s German riesling and gewürztraminer (€13.99, independents) with their engaging bird and hare labels should be sought out and bought.

Black Tower roll on, now with added varietal choice. Stick with the Riesling, honest wine for the €9.35 ask. The sylvaner is a bit grim.

Moving up the price scale, if you can still find Lo Zoccolaio’s Barolo 2001 for the stated €37.49 (McHugh’s had some) grab the merchant’s hand off, this is classic kit.

The Dalmau Reserva Rioja 1985 at €85 is daft money, considering you could have, as alternative, 4 bottles of the very quaffable Marques de Murieta Reserva 2005 (O’Briens, Dunnes, Molloys) and a taxi home. This wine, for me, wiped the floor with the popular Faustino equivalent.

The Bodegas Portia Prima Ribero del Duero 2007 (€25, selected independents) is currently dead sexy. Baby brother Ebeia Roble 2009, almost half the price, is good too.

Simonassi Malbec 2006 was decent for the money (€9.99).

Vergelegen Cabernet 2004 was good kit but at €29.45 I can think of a couple of dozen reds I’d rather drink or lay down. The better South African wines still impress, rather than charm.As a ‘how to’ they should look at the complexity St.Hallet are cramming into St.Hallet Old Block Shiraz 2005 (€34.95) , the 2004 of which I remember from a big Aussie seminar last year where it kicked sand in the eyes of a good few more expensive shirazes. The ’05 has all the poke of  a traditional Barossa red with lots of other nice things revolving round the glass.

Chileans Terra Andina gave us a well-priced Reserva Pinot Noir from Leyda (€10.99, Donnybrook Fair, Centra) and an electrifying, invigorating Sauvignon Blanc (€9.99) that carried more than a hint of old-style Marlborough before the Kiwis started shining it up.

More? Luscious the Lane ‘The Gathering’ Semillon-Sauvignon from Adelaide Hills (€22, independents); Hunter Estates Chardonnay from NZ, always class; and St.Hallett Old Block Shiraz 2005 (€35, O’Briens, Tesco) up there with the Barossa’s biggies.

Best of the budgets? No question. I give you False Bay Chardonnay, from South Africa’s Western Cape – classy stuff at ridiculous (€9.80, Londis, independents) money from Paul Boutinot, the Manchester maverick behind, among others, Chat en Oeuf (€9.10, Superquinn, Centra), one I’m always plugging for value. The 2010 False Bay Chardonnay is clean, non-cloying, more European than New World and altogther a worthy example of the sort of Chardy that should put noisy chavs like Pinot Grigio back in their box.

Can’t quit without mentioning the wonderful Julia Kennedy, whose organisation, as usual, was pluperfect. Great ideas of hers to get Fingal Ferguson there with mum Giana’s cheeses and his own salami, a huge quantum leap from when he started a few years back. The new mortadella, in particular, was a wondrous product.

Julia is off now to pastures new, Gleeson’s loss is Dillon’s gain.



Anyone looking at the site earlier may have seen a list of the Noffla (National Off-Licence Association) Awards. Thanks to Evelyn Jones at the admirable Vintry in Rathgar I am now advised that the press release they sent me at my request (I couldn’t make the award ceremony) contained the previous year’s winners which, in all good faith, I published. Apologies to this year’s winners, last year’s winners, forkncork readers and the public at large. Here are  the correct winners:


Specialist Off-Licence Group of the Year 2011 O’Donovans, Cork

Best First Time Entrant 2011 Next Door Swiss Cottage

Food Retailer Off-Licence of the Year 2011 Shiel’s Londis

Customer Service Award of the Year 2011 The Wine Centre, Kilkenny

Spirit Specialist of the Year 2011 Deveney’s Off-Licence, Dundrum

Beer Specialist of the Year 2011 McHugh’s Off-Licence, Malahide Road

Wine Specialist of the Year 2011 Jus de Vine, Portmarnock

Munster Off-Licence of the Year 2011 Matson’s Wine Store

Connaught/Ulster Off-Licence of the Year 2011 Dicey’s Off-Licence

Leinster Off-Licence of the Year 2011 Holland’s Fine Wines

Dublin Off-Licence of the Year 2011 Gibneys

National Off-Licence of the Year 2011 Sweeney’s Wine Merchants

On foot of the Noffla awards  came the New Zealand Wine Fair at The Radisson Golden Lane. Strange accents abounded and one winemaker was heard declaring he had “spent the summer ixtending my dick”, sounds painful. As you might expect, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir were the major exhibits. I can still remember the shockwave that occurred when Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc hit the Irish market back in the late eighties. Racy, instantly invigorating, I remember likening the sensation to “standing up close to the Powerscourt waterfall in full spate”. Since then, Cloudy Bay became a cult, later a fashion icon and up went the price. Luckily, other fine and lower priced Sauvignons followed hard on its heels. My particular favourites are Astrolabe, Siefried, Seresin and the ever-reliable Hunter’s, all widely available here.

I thought I detected a sea change in Pinot Noir winemaking – a trend towards lower oaking, more developed fruit and blacker tannins – maybe a concerted attempt to escape from the (unjustified) charge that Kiwi Pinot Noir is a one-trick pony. At a dinner at Ely – special mention for the wonderful lamb – Matt Thompson of Tinpot Hut disagreed. What I might have been tasting, he reckoned, were the flavours common to the 2008 vintage. 2010, he opined, will be a fantastic year for New Zealand Pinot.

There was an interesting table of ‘oddities’ – wines from grape varieties outside and beyond ‘the usual suspects’. I wish the Trinity Hill Arneis, a real charmer, were available here. Another beguiling beauty was the Pyramid Valley Vineyard Pinot Blanc. Felton Road Vin Gris – not a Pinot Grigio but a free run Pinot Noir, vinified as a white wine, was interesting. A couple of producers, why I’m not sure, were flirting with Montepulciano. Even in Italy this grape ranks among the ‘also rans’.

Must make a mention of Lawson’s Dry Hills whose dry Riesling, in particular, continues to amaze and delight. Sad that the engaging Ross Lawson is no longer with us, he was one of wine’s nicest people.

And so to what was billed as ‘The One to Watch’. Syrah, they tell us, will be the next sensation from The Land of the Long White Cloud. A tasting of a dozen or so convinced me this could be true. The wines will be more European, more Rhone-like than their Aussie counterparts. The Trinity Hill offering impressed but this wine is listed at around €70 in the UK and at that price, sorry, it’s a non-starter. Two wines stood out: one, of course, was Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels 2008. I’d stand over any wine made by the uber-talented Steve Smith. The other was, for me, ‘wine of the day’. Man O’War Dreadnought Syrah 2008 (O’Brien’s, €29.99) hails from Waiheke Island, a mere 11 miles by ferry from the city of Auckland. The Dreadnought is a ‘big’ wine, in the nicest sense. Enveloping without overpowering; with none of that ‘prickly heat’ you sometimes get from wines of 14 degrees ABV and above. The bouquet was of intense, blueberries with a trace of spice, aniseed maybe. On the palate the blueberries were subsumed by ripe, dark plums offset by gamey flavours with, at the back end, a whiff of fragrant pepper, so often a trademark of wines like Cote Rotie. I’d be pretty sure this is 100% Syrah, too; no hint of Viognier. Good Northern Rhone wines years ago, cost buttons compared to their Bordeaux and Burgundy counterparts. Now they’ve got expensive. I’m going to play a hunch and lay a few Dreadnoughts down.

Went off afterwards to a dinner at Ely with Matt Thompson of Tinpot Hut and the celebrated Kevin Judd, the wine maker who put Cloudy Bay on the map, who is also a superb photographer. Kevin now has his own label, Greywackie whose wines were showcased on the night. People were split on the merits of the Pinot Noir 2009. I loved it, whilst other preferred Matt’s darker, more brooding Delta Bay Hatters Hill 2008. Tinpot Hut’s Hawkes Bay Syrah 2007 was developing nicely. Winemaker Fiona Turner made the wine and most of the fruit comes from her estate at Blind River.

I told a story of an unscrupulous Dublin wine merchant who (back in the days when Cloudy Bay SB was on quota) was asked by an American gent “Got any Cloudy Bay”. “Last two cases” he replied. “Okay I’ll take them”. I stood open-mouthed as the merchant loaded them into the Yank’s car. He had the grace to wink at me. Kevin Judd said “I’d have preferred to have the Chardonnay, anyway.” Funny, he might have told us at the time!


One of my normal occupations at this time of year is to draw up a list of wine heroes – The ‘Grape Expectations’ Awards for those individuals or companies who’ve gone the extra mile to bring us decent drinking. It’s very much a virtual award, no plaques or tacky glassware, no framed certificates, just a nod in the direction of the good guys. This year, however, it’s the bad guys who are occupying my thoughts. Like the villains of this piece.

An Aussie friend, Ian Parmenter, public face of Tasting Australia, Adelaide’s prestigious biennial food and wine festival, lives in Margaret River, Western Australia. It’s a significant wine area, making its mark in particular with top notch Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay majoring on subtlety and charm, without the full-throttle intensity of those from hotter regions. Margaret River is home to esteemed producers like Cullen, Mosswood, Vasse Felix, Xanadu, Leeuwin Estate, Cape Mentelle, Howard Park and more. Many of the wineries boast highly-rated restaurants.

A coastal area, it enjoys a warm, maritime climate. The core of the region is the attractive town of Margaret River itself. Throughout the area, scenic delights are manifold – beaches for walking or surfing, rivers for the fisherman, rolling hills, Karri Forest, everywhere abundant wildlife. The locals have encouraged tourism and developed it while maintaining the region’s beauty – there are no theme parks here. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? And it is, I’ve visited four times and Margaret River has never lost its attraction. Alas, Ian tells me there are signs that the idyll could be about to end.

King Coal is the reason. The black dictator that scarred the face of a once rural England, Scotland and Wales has raised his ugly head again. A company called Vasse Coal has submitted proposals for a coal mine at Osmington, a mere 15k away from the town of Margaret River, with seams under the region. Two further proposals are on file. As old Bob Dylan wrote “Money doesn’t talk, it swears” – Ian informs me there’s every likelihood that the Western Australian authorities might give this nebulous scheme the go-ahead.

Barmy, criminal, suicidal or what? We complain daily and with justification about our own politicians but I don’t think even Cowen, Lenihan and Co would sanction mining for coal under the Ring of Kerry.

So it Goes… this week's decent drinking

These bottles are one legacy of a boozy dinner party. The other is the happy memory!

Domaine Langlois Chateau Saumur Vielles Vignes 2004

David Whelehan introduced me to this darling; hand-picked, carefully selected Chenin Blanc from 35 year old vines. Matured in oak casks. Sumptuous and supple, it’s a huge favourite of mine. O’Briens €17.99

d’Arenberg The Lucky Lizard 2007

Takes me back to great friendly days in Adelaide Hills. Another tour de force from Chester Osborn, a perfect reminder that Australian Chardonnay doesn’t have to be all pineapples, guavas and mangoes. Joyful but quite delicately structured. Oddbins €17.99

Chassagne-Montrachet 1998 Bader-Mimeur

Found this down the cellar, god knows where it came from. Nice example, I’m really coming back on to aged white Burgundy though younger friends, though up on Kiwi Sauv B seem unconvinced.

Chateau Redortier Gigondas 2006

Bags of soft, showy fruit, drinking beautifully now and will doubtless keep. Better than a lot of C du P at twice the price. Fallon & Byrne €19.50

Barolo 2001, G.D.Vajra.

Everyone rated this for the warm dark plum, morello and redcurrant fruit in abundance. Unlike many Barolos from this vintage it had already lost that steely edge. I’d love another bottle to see how it keeps but, again, can’t remember where this one came from.

Chateau Dereszla Tokaji Muscotaly 2000

Classic dessert wine with substantial weight, a dark honeyed edge and a long, long finish. Carted a few of these back from Budapest, this is the last one, alas.

New Wines from M&S

Attended the Marks & Spencer tasting of their latest offerings, here are my notes.

The tasting took place in the cellar of WHPR/Ogilvy & Mather building in Ely Place.

Some of the whites were too chilled, some of the reds a tad soupy but otherwise the event was really well organised – spittoons, clipboards with a catalogue, logical order (mostly), loads of space and a fair bit of cunus (certainly for the early arrivals) – other organisers please take note. Kudos to Claire Guiney from WHPR who organised matters and got Ireland’s top brass tasters there without needing to promise a gourmet lunch. I could get fond of the M&S crisps, though.

At the outset I got genuinely excited over the sparklers when I thought I’d unearthed a quite decent Champagne for €17.49. Alas, the price was a misprint, but **Louis Chaury‘s blend of 40% PN/30 Chard/30PM was still great value for the, corrected, €21.50 – this has got to be one of the better budget Champagnes around.

***St.Gall Vintage Grand Cru 2002 did cost €44 but it’s stunning and worth every penny for its bravura flavours.

On to the whites and an interesting dry *2008 Pedro Ximenez from class act Alvaro Espinoza in Chile’s Elqui Valley. Unoaked, clean party wine, different and distinctive.

A couple of Chardonnays from Argentina demonstrated differing characteristics. The €6.99 Vinalta 2008 was drinkable, commendably bereft of tinned fruit and good value. The Fragoso 2006, €9.99 had some weird dark notes that spoilt the enjoyment a bit, at least for this critic. Both were preferable to the oaked Altos del Condor 2008 (winemaker with the discouraging name of Daniel Pi); described on the back label as as ‘expertly blended by Marks & Spencer’, it wasn’t that expert.

Perhaps the nicest of the budget whites was a **Gavi, Quatro Sei 2008 (€9.99). Clean, smart, modern winemaking of the highest order, I’d definitely buy this for summer drinking.

Abruzzo deserves our support at the minute but that’s far from the only reason to pick this €15.99 white. Rocco Pasettti of Contesa’s **Pecorino 2007 was, despite the name, in no way cheesy. Lemon and apple fruit in abundance, smoothed out by a touch of malo, an immensely interesting change from the usual suspects.

I wouldn’t have guessed the origin of the unoaked **2008 Macon Village from George Brisson in a blind tasting, it seemed more laid back and ‘northerly’. I actually preferred it to its neighbour, a €15.99 Chablis.

A couple of quite savvy and very different NZSBs. *Seifreid 2008 €12.49 could have been re-christened ‘Siegfried’ with its savage attack, my sort of Sauvignon Blanc, racy and mineral. *Flaxbourne 2008 €13.49 gave you some elegance and restraint for your extra euro, in the end it all comes down to what you prefer.

On to Oz, where we kicked off with M&S’s own Chardy 2008, nabbed from Brian Walsh of Yalumba where they know about these things. A quaffer, buckets of tinned fruit, but what could you demand for €6.49? The **Hunter Valley Chardonnay 2008, very traditional, up to 4 months on less then six in real French barrels produced a relaxed yet flavoursome, lean, clean €12.49’s worth. Might buy Her Indoors some of this, it’s right up her street.

The Las Falleras Rosé 2008 €6.49 was well bubblegumesque. *Le Froglet (is this ‘Franglais or what?) at €7.99 was rather better, fresh, bright and clean.

The VDP Ardeche Gamay 2008 cried out for food; the South African Maara Shiraz 2008 was slabby and slightly mucky; I don’t do Pinotage – all I can say is that the Houdamond, at €13.99 won’t attract many admirers, other than those who like the smell of burning rubber I can’t help attributing to this grape. Okay, Houdamond is well made and it’s bush vines and oak barrels (American) but, in the end, it’s still a bit Formula One.

Fellow taster Martin (Moran) asked me “Why does this cost €35?”. All I could say was “That’s what a single-estate Rioja Reserva from a reputed producer in a good vintage fetches”. That said, personally, I’d give the Contino 2004 a miss there’s better stuff around for less money. And avoid the 2003 if you see it.

The Paradiso Carmenere 2008 is ‘vibrant’ all right. Trouble is the tannins are green as your favourite rugby shirt. The new *Vinalta Malbec 2008 is a nicer drink for €3 less, a genuine bargain at €6.99.

Nicest red in the tasting for me was the ***Nebbiolo 2007 €16.49) from Renato Ratti (available from ‘major stores’ so you probably won’t see it everywhere.) Understated, a class act and full of character. You could safely squirrel this away too.

Of the two Pinot Noirs on show, I preferred the **Tasmanian 2007, a typically relaxed and mellow production by Andrew Pirie of Tamar Ridge. Worth every penny and then some of €12.49. The *Clocktower 2007 (€16.49) was a typically exuberant production from Ben Glover and the guys at Wither Hills in the “Hey, let’s set out our stall and see how much fruit, how many nuances we can squeeze out” manner. All a bit OTT really, still a tad one-dimensional like many New Zealand Pinot Noirs away from the top echelon and, to my mind, this uncompromising treatment does take a little of the unbridled fun out of Pinot in an “I Can’t Believe it’s not Shiraz” manner. Bit of an exaggeration, maybe, but I’m sure you’ll get what I mean.

To conclude, a fine and extremely good value Eiswein, big mouthful and that’s not only the name – **Darting Estate Weissburgunder Eiswein, €17.99

Not a bad stab at budget fino with a €7.99 Fino Dry Sherry plucked from Williams & Humbert – interesting pistache and smokey bacon nose; chill the hell out of it and consume at a sitting with whitebait, tapas or somesuch. The Extra Dry White Port (from Guimarens, a good house) was by no means extra dry within the context we’d understand. Tasty though. The Pink Port from the same stable won’t I fear, win many friends. Except maybe as a cocktail mixer, it takes some comprehending. What’s the point of bubblegum that you can’t blow bubbles with?

My recommendations  indicated with an *, rated * to ***

Nice Wines

At the interesting Celtic Whiskey shop tasting yesterday picked out some wines I liked very much and you might too.
The La Multa Old Vine wines, particularly the Tempranillo, the Garnacha and the Syrah were fantastic value at around a tenner. Lovely easy drinking and a change from the usual suspects. I also liked the Itsa Mendi 2007, 16.99 from the Basque country and the distinctive Castillo de Ulver Crianza 2005, 18.99 from Bierzo.
The Convento San Francisco wines from Ribera Del Duero, currently Europe’s most exciting wine region, were superb.
Some nice whites, including a very fine barrel fermented Chardonnay from Castillo de Monjardin, Navarra , 13.99.
reverting to red, the standout VFM wine of the show was the Manga del Brujo 2006 from Bodegas San Gregorio, Catalayud. Buy, buy, buy at 13.99.

O'Brien's Christmas Portfolio Tasting 2006

At the Four Seasons, O’Brien’s had assembled a collection of what many of us will be drinking this festive season and invited the wine scribes to preview same.

Overall the quality was outstandingly high and the rise-and-rise of this progressive chain seems set to continue, thanks chiefly to the efforts of the buying team, skilfully led by David Whelehan and, it has to be said, the high standards of service in O’Brien’s outlets, improved out of all recognition in the last 5 or 6 years.


Novas Chardonnay 2005, e11.99
An initial tropical fruit festival to delight the Man from Del Monte subsides to leave stylish citrus and apple flavours at the back of the palate. Good clean finish. Organic too.

Andes Peaks Sauvignon Blanc e7.99, will be on Christmas promo at 6.49
No mineral refreshment, simply ‘travel sweets meet tinned fruit’ but hey… for the money!

Kelly’s Patch Unoaked Chardonnay 2005 e7.99
Fresh, clean, tasty wine and good value for money. Delivers.

Pazo de Senorans 2005 e16.99
Decent enough but there’s plenty of competition at this price point.

** Fritsch Gruner Veltliner 2005 e13.99
Smart, mineral, plus bit of fatty bacon, nose segues into rich, dark, complex mysterious flavours. Loved it. Great value too.

Schloss Schonborn Gutswein Riesling Trocken 2005 e11.49
** Ignore the tongue-twisting name, go seek it out. You won’t be disappointed. Extremely good value for money.

**Fritsch Riesling Wagram 2005 e13.99
More good stuff from these smart-as-paint Austrians. Gorgeous honeyed flavours, pointed up by just enough acidity to keep it from cloying and a fantastic weight of fruit.

Sparr Riesling Reserve 2005 e12.99 Christmas Promo 11.99
Good work, ruined by a curiously stark after taste. I much preferred the ‘Gutswein’.

***Schloss Shonborn Erbach Marcobrunn 2004 e23.99
Not, at the price, for casual drinking but if you can afford it, buy with confidence. Massive weight of fruit but not a big alcohol hit; honeyed tones and a long, long finish should please.

Chanson Macon-Villages 2005 e9.99
A slightly ‘pastey’ finish robs this wine of some of its allure but undeniably good value.

***Pierre Andre Rully2004 e14.99
Simply lovely. Budget burgundy at its best.

** Brocard Chablis Grand Crus Bougros 2002 e45.
Delicious, firm fruit and a classic Chablis GC finish, long and lingering. Look for it in O’B’s Fine Wine Sale and grab it at the promo price (under e30)

***Roger Belland Santenay 1er Cru Beauregard 2004 e23
Belland’s Santenay is highly regarded and it’s easy to see why. Much of the essence of top-dollar white burgundy for less than half the money.

Domaine du Salvard Cheverny 2005 e11.99
Off-putting nose leaves you unprepared for the lovely, clean appley fruit that follows. You might like this, you might not. I did, sort of.

*Delheim Sauvignon Blanc 2005 e10.89
The sort of clean, refreshing but not-too-tart Sauvignon that’s replaced Chardonnay in the hearts and minds of Dublin 4 demoiselles. Gets a * for value.

**Vatan Sancerre 2004 e22.95
Silky and superb. Great winemaking.

Henry Bourgeois Porte du Caillou Sancerre 2005 e17.99
Decent and good value for money but suffered in comparision to the Vatan

*Delheim 3 Springs 2006 Sauv/Sem/Chard e8.99
Decent quaffer at a good price, much better than most for the money.

**Astrolabe Sauvignon Blanc 2005 e15.99
If you like NZ Sauv B (and I do) this is one of the very best around. Unless you are into labels, give Cloudy Bay a miss and buy two of these for the same money.
At the promised Christmas promo price, a steal.

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Gilbeys Portfolio Tasting – Oct 14 2006 – WHITES and ROSE

The Gilbeys Portfolio press tasting was one of the best organised and most enjoyable tastings of recent memory – hats off to Julia Kennedy, Lynne Coyle and Mary Dowey – despite the worst efforts of the Guinness Storehouse staff who did their best to sabotage the event by mopping the floor of the adjacent restaurant with Jeyes’ Fluid!

These boys are big – one in every seven bottles of wine retailing at over ten euro is a Gilbeys bottle. The portfolio contains many hallowed names – Trimbach, Drouhin, Louis Latour, Jaboulet to name but four.

Anyhow, here are my impressions:

Wild Coast Chardonnay-Semillon, South-East Australia 2006. e7.99
Good, honest, pleasant, non-cloying quaffer, excellent value for money

*Santa Rita 120 Reserva Especial Sauvignon Blanc, Leyda 2006, e11.50
The base Santa Rita wines have,m in my opinion, underperformed in recent years. This one is well back on track with a nice minerally crackle at the front end and smooth luscious fruit at the back. From the recently-exploited cool (for Chile) region of Leyda. There’s hope for Chilean SB yet!

**Santa Rita Riesling Limited Selection, Valle de Casablanca 2006, e11.99
On special at SperValu and Centra for 7.99, this is daft money for a nicely-balanced, delicate riesling that comes without the ‘characterful’ benzine intrusion.

**Hunters Marlborough Riesling 2004, e19.99
Very smart stuff. Lovely minerally prickle folowed by a tangy weight of citrus and stone fruit, with a hint of herbs and beeswax. Classy.

***F.E.Trimbach Riesling Cuvee Frederick Emile 2003 e35
Benzine is back! All the characteristic of non-palate clogging classic riesling. Trimbach describe their gear as ‘Protestant Wine’. Don’t take this the wrong way, folks, this is no tub-thumping Lambeg drum pounder; they mean modest and understated but in reality this wine has nothing to be modest about. Lean, spare, suave, elegant, a total class act. One of the best food wines in the world and that’s the truth.

Next, two Burgundies from Louis Latour, both at 37.50.

The Meursault Premier Cru Chateau de Blagny 2003 had a huge hit of fruit and a decidedly long finish but was, for me, on the unsubtle side of unsubtle.

The Puligny-Montrachet Hameau de Blagny 2002 was leaner, maybe even a tad unapproachable but should mellow.

The Biodynamic Joseph Drouin Meursault 2003, e40, was, a huge, vastly OTT wine with immense oaking. You’d need a hunk of roasted veal or similar to get this down. Not one for a quiet night by the fire.

**In contrast, the Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet, e40, was a more quiescent proposition. Still fat but with more elegance and a generous, lingering finish.
To be honest, there is probably better value in white Burgundy out there than this quartet.

Navarro Correas Coleccion Privada Chardonnay, Mendoza 2005, 10.99
All the plusses and drawbacks of budget chardonnay. On the one hand, uncomplicated and easy-to-drink. On the other, uncomplicated and easy-to-drink . Bit boring, really.

*Fairview Viognier Coastal Region (South Africa) 2004. e14.99
At last! A low-mid priced viognier that doesn’t clog the palate. Very decent and would make a nice change from the usual suspects.

Paul Jaboulet Aine Crozes-Hermitage Mule Blanche 2001. e21.99
Quite refined and stylish, but not a wine I’ll ever be fond of. Lot of competition at the price too.

**L’Expatrie Barossa Semillon, Colonial Estate 2003 e19.99
Lovely lemony well-integrated fruit, smartly judged fruit-acid balance, non-clying, long finish all the hallamrks of Jonathan Malthus. Love it!

***Clos Nardian Saint Aubin de Brannes, Bordeaux Blanc 2003 e75
Oustanding exposition of white Bordeaux style from JM again. Utterly gorgeous, but the price!


**’G’ Saignee des Anges Bordeaux Clairet 2005 e12.99
Gold star winner in the Noffla Awards ’06. Far better than the over-trumpeted, over-blown Domaine Ott Bandol at twice the money. Clean, fresh, enjoyable entirely non-cloying.
The sheer weight of clean fruit comes as a nice surprise. As good as it gets, especially when the sun shines and you can drink it in the garden, poreferably with a bucket of Wexford strawberries.

*Chateau de Sours Bordeaux Rose 2005 e14.99
Benchmark stuff from a really good producer. Quite a big hit and hard to put down a second bottle, for me, a slight minus point in a rose but otherwise very impressive.

Santa Rita120 Reserva Especial Rose Shiraz , e11.50
Hasn’t managed to shed the spearmint overlay common to most Chilean rose. Not bad, but needs more work.

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Three top tips for getting more bang from your bottle

This week, my top three tips for getting more enjoyment out of wine.

One of the first things rookie wine writers feel obliged to do is to point out that the e9 bottle you are drinking only contains 37 cents worth of wine. I wish they wouldn’t. Nothing’s more certain to sunder the harmonious marriage of Chilean Chardonnay and Bombay Pantry take-away than the revelation that the wine exudes a bouquet of packing cases, airplane fuel and the taxman’s greasy suit. Still, spending a few euro more does get you a nicer gargle. I’m often approached by ladies who say “My husband likes wine. What can I give him that will enhance his enjoyment?” They mention a sum, invariably not enough to build a cellar so I end up intoning “Lever corkscrew, decanter, thermometer…” What a cop out! Absolutely the best advice would be “Money. Give him a fiver a week, help him drink better.”

Get some decent glasses. First, try putting 6 odds-and-sods in a row, pour the same amount of wine into each glass and sample. I guarantee you’ll be amazed, sometimes you wouldn’t believe it’s all the same wine. Afterwards, the temptation to head for Mitchell’s and buy six of every Riedel grape-specific glass will be nigh irresistible. In reality all you need, unless you are going to get very, very anoraky, is a set of stem glasses you can fill a third of the way up with wine and still leave twice that amount of head space for the bouquet to come whuffing up. Bowl shape? Imagine a big egg with the top cut off. Nice thin glass, no horrible rolled rims. Buy Riedel if you must – their Vinum Chianti glass at around e20 a throw is a great all-rounder – but there are perfectly adequate glasses to be found in Dunnes or Roches.

Adopting Tip Number 3 won’t cost a cent unless you’d care to make a donation to the Ernie Whalley Fund for Penniless Wine Scribes. Golfers talk about the ‘inner game’ by which they mean adopting the psychological karma that will enable them to swing smoothly from the lst tee and progress to the 18th, coping along the way with bad shots and bad luck. Likewise the confident wine drinker will have shucked off prejudices; be well able to assimilate new experiences; be capable of coping with wine snobs, aggressive bluffers and the odd corked bottle. Get the ‘inner game’ sorted and you’ll feel more comfortable with a glass of wine in company.

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Let's Do It, Let's Fall in Love

Found this song I wrote in 2004 on my South African trip – with the help of Cole Porter – in the back pages I was gonna dump. Thought it should be preserved for, well, if not quite posterity, a bit longer. Had to put it somewhere, so it’s here.

(South African Version)

Chardonnay, cask or tank, does it
Forrester claims even Chenin Blanc does it,
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.
And Pinotage, which I hate, does it
Riesling, though it leaves in very late, does it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.
Cabernet and its friends do it
In combinations of three
All those anodyne blends do it
(But never with me)
Viognier,sounds quite gay, does it
Colombard, though boring and passé, does it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.

Chasseurs in full hue-and-cry do it
‘Bok and kudu roasting on a braai do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.
Rednecks with long smoking guns do it
Germans eating ostriches on buns do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.
Americans filthy rich, do it,
They’ve read Hemingway
Some real sons of a bitch do it
Best keep out of their way
All men mild, meak or mean do it
Ancient Brits who sing “God Save The Queen” do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.

Jeanette who wrings Life from Stone does it
Even Robert Parker all alone does it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.
Ferreira, Pete, with his fizz does it
Chrissie Keet, who we think is a wiz, does it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.
Kevin A, in some style, does it
By the fountain at dawn
Charlie B, with a smile does it,
(Grazing goats get the horn)
Celtic blonde rag trade queens do it
Editors of gourmet magazines do it,
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.

with acknowledgement to Cole Porter who wrote the original
 ernie whalley 2004

Dedicated to Jeanette Bruwer of Springfield Estate

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