Tag Archives: Italian wine


"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.


A short trip to Puglia, in Italy’s extreme south-east, provided one of the most interesting experiences in this wine writer’s crowded year. The Mediterranean climate, coupled with a predominance of soil types suited to grape growing, has made the region a significant producer of wine. Close on half a million acres is dedicated to viticulture, split between wine and table grapes. Back in the 1980s, wine production reached nearly 350 million gallons. To put this in perspective, that’s over three times the current production of Chile.

In those days you wouldn’t have found a bottle of Puglian wine in your local wine merchants. Indeed very little was bottled at all. Some was sold at the cellar door. Some got distilled, or turned into grape concentrate to use for soil enrichment. Most was sent North for blending, chiefly into vermouth.

Our trip was based around the Torrevento winery, housed in a former monastery in the Castel del Monte area, north of Bari. There has been a good deal of investment in Torrevento, in shiny stainless steel tanks, expensive oak barrels and in technology. Torrevento has vineyards in other parts of Pugia and this is reflected in wines like Sine Nomine and Faneros, representing Salice Salentino in the far south of the province, made principally from a luxuriantly aromatic black grape called negroamaro. Another Puglian grape variety is bombino, a mispronunciation of which caused great hilarity over dinner when one of our number declared “I love pompino” – Italian for ‘blow job’! At lunch on the final day I enjoyed an invigorating easy-drinking young white wine, Pezzapiana, made from a blend of bombino bianco and pampanuto, another local hero.

We spent an afternoon picking grapes. It’s a backbreaking task, making you appreciate the efforts of the regulars. Even picking carefully, there still seemed an inordinate amount of leaf and stalk in my basket. To make an exceptional wine this has to be removed, calling for investment in either sorting by hand or expensive complex machinery. Another small reminder why good wine costs more.

On the final night we were subjected to a blending exercise. Blending wines is enormous fun, probably the most you can have with your clothes on; it certainly beats Scrabble, Trivvy and charades hands down. Over the years I’ve taken part in quite a few such exercises. I recall one where Phillip Laffer, at the time head winemaker of Orlando who make Jacob’s Creek, gave assorted wine scribes bottles of the Reserve Shiraz of the four consitutent parts – wines from MacLaren Vale, The Barossa, Padthaway and Langhorne Creek if I recall correctly, with instructions to replicate the finished article. I actually got it right first off but Phil snidely convinced me I was “nearly there” and so I starting fiddling with my blend and finished up further and further away. I remind him of this every time we meet, mainly because the prize for the winner was a case of top dollar shiraz and I was well miffed!

At Torrevento our task was to blend something potable from our choice of the four local wines they gave us. Steering a team of opinionated international wine writers in what you think is the right direction is no easy task. I had to summon up all my years of experience as a trade union official in a former life. Several times we reached a state of anarchy, chaos and instability comparable to the government of a bankrupt banana republic but eventually we pulled together and at the end of the night our wine was declared the gold medal winner.

I’d urge you, especially if you’ve never done it, to give blending a go. You’ll learn a lot about what makes wine tick and have bags of fun doing it. All you need is a few inexpensive bottles of single varietals – a cabernet sauvignon, a shiraz, a merlot will do nicely and a few pals to share the experience. A laboratory jar and a pipette would be handy – maybe ask the kids – but a kitchen measuring jug, marked in millilitres will do nicely, plus a plastic funnel and a few empty bottles to store your efforts . The smart thing is to make a ‘control wine’ first; one that everyone agrees is “almost there”. Keep this and test subsequent efforts against it.

The winery’s glory is the red Castel del Monte Riserva, Vigna Pedale, made 100% from Nero di Troia, a patrician grape that seemed destined for oblivion until rescued by Torrevento in the mid-nineties.  We were given a vertical tasting (same wine, successive vintages) of Vigna Pedale and the gulf in class between 1996, the first and 2006, the latest, were very evident. In quality terms, Vigna Pedale is at least the equivalent of, say, a top notch Chianti Classico. With this rate of progress and (I’m going out on a limb here) it might soon be able to compete with some of the trendy much-trumpeted ‘Super Tuscans’, more affordable too. Certainly the soft tannins and the abundant fragrance of the nero di troia make Vigna Pedale easy to drink when still relatively young.

Alas, it’s not available here in Ireland as yet, though Torrevento are established in the UK.  I’d love to see more Puglian wines in Ireland as the wines have real character, grapes employed are, for the most part, local and regional and make a refreshing change  from ‘the usual suspects’. The region is currently undergoing a huge quality hike in pursuit of which which the Torrevento winery is in the van.

Punta Aquila primitivo 2007, a lovely Puglian red (recently ‘on special’ for €12.99, O’Brien’s) comes loaded with dark, opulent plums, with a hint of black pepper and spice on the back palate. With enough balancing acidity to prevent it being flabby and boring.

Restaurant Review – Taste of Emilia/Alexis Pizza & Deli

One of the biggest culinary myths is that there’s such a thing as Italian food. There’s not. To comprehend this you have to realise that Italy, as we know it today, is a relatively modern creation, cobbled together out of a number of smaller states , each with its own heritage, culture and, indeed, cuisine. In these matters, Lombardy, in the north, has about as much in common with Puglia, in the extreme south-west as Tullamore, Co Offaly has with Tirana, Albania.

Still, there is some commonality. First and foremost is the love of food. All over Italy you find cooking is regarded as a pleasure, sometimes even a privilege, and not a chore. Secondly, there’s the generosity of the host. Get invited to an Italian home and, rich or poor, they’ll roll out the red carpet for you. Thirdly, whatever goes into the pot or onto the plate, the freshness of the ingredients is a given.

The mutilation of Italian food abroad that has resulted in much dire dining – the blood red synthetic sauces, the cardboard pizzas – is not the fault of the Italians themselves. It’s down to the timidity of Anglo and Celtic palates. The Italians who emigrated initially cooked the food of their home region. Alas, brought up on our sad, grey diets, we picked and chose only those things we could easily stomach and rejected the rest. Small wonder that Italian restaurateurs, in the main, gave up trying and just gave us the bits we craved.

Fifteen years ago, when I was cooking for a living, I decided to extend our café/restaurant’s vegetarian choice by including a dish I had found on a visit to Italy. It was simple enough, grilled aubergines and fresh sage, covered in a bechamel spiced with nutmeg and dusted generously with aged pecorino cheese. The first day I put the dish on I had two complaints. From a banker who told me I’d left the tomatoes out of the sauce in error and from a ‘head’ who moaned “De black tings have made me burd sick”. It didn’t last long on the menu.

There’s plenty of average-to-crap Italian food in Dublin. Going to som lengths to avoid meeting it I always end up in an outpost of the Dunne and Crescenzi empire, the exquisite little Pinocchio in Ranelagh or, occasionally in Mick Wallace’s Enoteca in the daftly-named Quartier Bloom. If I want to go slightly, though not extravagantly, upscale then Nonna Valentina or Il Primo have always proved authentic and reliable. Il Manifesto, in Rathmines can accommodate me at either end of the price scale.

Last week, I found two others to add to my list. The History Woman, a regular dining companion with the appetite and exuberance of me at a similarly youthful age, dragged me to Taste of Emilia in Liffey Street and boy, am I glad she did. The place is tiny, twenty seats tops, the menu plain, unvarnished. You can have plates, or rather, boards, small or large, of prosciutto and salami, cheeses or a blend of both plus tuly wonderful bruschetta and a few other delights like good olives and especially fine artichokes. A couple of Italian ladies run the place, bestowing civility and smiles in equal parts, the whole vibe is like dining in the kitchen of someone you’ve just met but liked instantly. The provenance and condition of all the ingredients is first rate. Wines are Italian, with a reliable Prosecco, a Valpolicella ripasso of no great distinction and a Brunello di Montalcino which, as ever, didn’t justify the asking price. There are no desserts but a ‘chocolate grappa’ – I forget the full title – will keep your sweet tooth hopping happily.

Later in the week, Sibella was dining with her golfing chums and I needed something more substantial than the left-overs in the fridge. Fate caused me to happen across Alexis Pizza and Deli in Deansgrange which must surely be one of County Dublin’s as yet undiscovered gems. It’s a sister ship to the excellent Alexis bistro in Dun Laoghaire. In a spotless café, nicely appointed, I partook of a substantial roasted vegetable antipasto, a plateful of aubergines, courgettes, tomatoes and peppers, nicely garnished and some good bread to mop up the residue of the fine olive oil in which the ingredients had been marinated. Afterwards, I designed my own pizza with tomato, aged parma ham, buffalo mozzarella, anchovies, mushrooms and a scattering of sprightly rucola over the top. The crust was thin, crisp and as far removed from your average take-away as it’s possible to get and the toppings generous. It cost €11.50. The wine list is a small jewel. I took three glasses, the first a white Custoza from the Veneto house of Zenato, a quantum leap from ubiquitous, bland, boring Pinot Grigio. The second, again from Zenato (whose wines currently feature ‘on special’ at many Dublin wine merchants in honour of the winery’s 50th birthday) was a Ripassa della Valpolicella, one of the best around. It’s a huge wine though and somewhat overwhelmed the pizza’s delicate flavours so I backtracked and took a glass of Rosso Piceno Superiore from Brecciaolo, a maker I particularly admire. This proved the perfect complement. The trio, by the way, set me back €16.40, which I consider extremely reasonable.

Alexis Pizza and Deli, 31, Deansgrange Road, Deansgrange, Co Dublin  Tel (01) 289 7503


Food ***

Wine ****

Service ***

Ambience **

Overall ***1/2

First published in The Dubliner Magazine, free with The Evening Herald on Thurdsdays

So it Goes…. this week's decent drinking

I am indebted to fellow wine writer Paul Kiernan who, via his Twitter monicker @grapesofsloth, gave me the heads up on a letter to Decanter magazine in which a reader asked “What planet are your tasters on when they describe wines as ‘high wired’ and ‘coiled with purpose’?” What indeed. “Uranus, as in ‘talking through…” would have been my response.
Once more the vexed subject of descriptive and pseudo-scientific language in a wine context raises its head. In order to justify our meagre stipend we wine scribes have to do a bit better than “You should buy the Quinta de Pancas Touriga Nacional Reserve 2007, it’s really good” (it is though – try Corkscrew, Chatham St or The Wine Boutique, Ringsend). And, to keep ahead or at least abreast of those who’ve been processed through the WSET exam system we have to come up with something more original than “aromas of bergamot, mandarins, figs and forest floor”.
Following a bit of banter with Paul I decided it was time for action. With the aid of a willing accomplice, a two-volume Shorter Oxford English Dictionary and an A4 notepad I devised the initial (analogue) version of WRADEC – Whalley’s Random Adjective and Descriptor Compiler. First I wrote down a list of a wine’s components – nose, palate, body, aftertaste, finish etc. Then I got my acolyte to select a page of the SOED at random. Next I eeny-meeny-miney-moed up and down the page, settling on a descriptor, which I wrote down. After a few passes of this kind , I sorted out the jumble into something approaching a coherent and hopefully, plausible sentence.
The random inclusion of ‘swinging’ in my first effort gained me a clatter of undesirable followers on Twitter. But eventually I had a whole heap of new things to say, I mean, “A shog of a wine, almost fescenine on the nose; brusquely effulgent of palate with a longiloquent finish”, how good is that? I have someone working on the software as I write.
Meanwhile, the stream of bargains coming out of the supermarkets continues. A couple of years ago we couldn’t get anything drinkable for €8. I hope you all took Martin Moran at his word (Evening Herald HQ) and bought shedloads of the gorgeous Jacobs Creek Reserve Riesling while it was €6.50 at Tesco. Staying in the cut-price category the same outlet also has another couple of cracking whites. There’s a glut of NZ sauvignon around at the minute and Fern Bay 2009 is drinking well for the money. And I particularly liked the Macon Villages Blanc 2008, well-structured chardonnay. Marks & Spencer also have a decent Macon Villages of the same vintage, as well as a 2008 single estate Orvieto with a snappy herb-and-spice nose and apple and pear fruit on the palate. Unless you are really into that tropical fruit vibe (and many people are) I’d take either of the Macons before the SQ Classic Collection chardonnay but SQ’s Semillon-sauvignon blanc is simply in a different league. Tipping the scales at a reasonable 12 per cent ABV it would be great for casual drinking in the garden; it’s incredibly food-friendly; and could be regarded as a bit of a keeper if you wish – ‘Mr.Versatility’, for daft money. All these wines retail for less than €8.

"Goodbye… and thanks for all the booze" …Wine writers' ethics

L'Ermita, Priorat June 2009
L'Ermita, Priorat June 2009

I’m having a glass in the garden with a friend of mine who, only having lately come to wine, is now making up for lost time. He picks my scrambled brains every opportunity he gets. Today, he wants the inside track on wine criticism. Over a drop of Laurent Miquel’s rich and quite elegant Nord Sud viognier (widely available in Ireland, around a tenner), Sean asks me “How come you guys never tell us about the crap wines?”.

The question caught me at a loss. My initial reaction was to stammer “Well… we don’t really come across too many.” Which is untrue for there are many unsound wines around ranging from bland to boring to downright crap.

Thinking about it, I suppose the main reason is we want to leave our readers with a message of hope. For my own part, with only 500 or so words to expend on a weekly column (Sunday Independent), I don’t want to write a shopping list (or, worse, a non-shopping list); I think it’s better to use the column to impart some inside track, maybe dish out a few odd wrinkles that will make the reader, hopefully, more aware of wine’s complexity and charm.

Sean was anxious to get me to expound on the ethics of wine writing on which British writers Jamie Goode (www.wineanorak.com) and Tim Atkin (www.timatkin.com) have written in interesting fashion recently. “Should wine writers accept free wine and undertake paid-for trips?”, he demanded.

Aagh, that’s a knotty one. The first generation of wine writers didn’t have this problem, being, largely, well-off young men whose fathers and Oxbridge colleges were blessed with well-stocked cellars. In those days wine meant ‘European wine’ so it was no big deal to make a couple of trips a year to France and Germany. Italy, Barolo and Brunello apart was under-regarded. Chianti was an object of mild derision. Even Rioja was little known until the mid-1970s. Today, with the likes of Uruguay, Georgia, India and more pushing for recognition as serious players, a ‘go it alone’ wine writer would need very deep pockets indeed.

Thinking about it, I’ve come to the conclusion that fraternisation with the trade is a necessary evil. Most present day wine writers, me included, simply wouldn’t be able to do a professional job without tasting samples and visiting wine regions. To travel to, say, the Hunter Valley, the Barossa, McLaren Vale and Margaret River, as I did the other year, would cost zillions and, even if I could afford it, would be impossibly time-consuming to organise. Good to have those nice people from Tasting Australia and The Australian Wine Board to do all the hard work for me.

The ‘trick’ if that’s the word, is to keep your integrity (remember, as Tim Atkin says, the abiding duty is to the consumer) and not produce work tainted by conflict of interest. They say everyone has their price though and my message to other wine scribes is “keep that price high”. Maybe, if we do, one day we’ll all have a Château on the Loire, a Lambo, and a posh yacht. Till then don’t sell your soul for a case of Chilean merlot, a night in the Gatwick TravelLodge and a squint at another feckin’ bottling plant.

Meanwhile, here’s an equation for you. Ace Winemaker + Unfashionable Region = Big Bargain. I’m adding my voice to the chorus of Irish wine writers singing the praises of Protocolo 2006 (O’Brien’s,* €8.99). To say this is Ireland’s best BBQ red would be true but insulting, it’s worth far more serious consideration. Decant and savour.

*Thanks for the Havanas, Kevin (only joking, dear readers)

This is an extended version of an article written for the Sunday Independent ‘Life’ magazine

Tolloy: Weissburgunder, Merlot, Gewurz

Had a chance to road test three of the Tolloy Wines from Alto Adige region, Northern Italy that Superquin are bringing in.

Probably the most interesting was the Weissburgunder (Pinot Bianco/Pinot Blanc NOT our new bestfriend, Pinot Grigio, beloved of ‘Ladies who Lunch’ if there are still any around now hubby’s bank shares have gone down the tube and the Ballsbridge tractor’s been repo’d). Quite a solid, chunky mouthfeel, surprising for this variety, with a nice lemony lift; a little bit of honey towards the back palate and something akin to smokey bacon – no, smoked cheese, in there. Maybe sounds weird, but it works. Spot on fruit/acid balance and good value for €10.99 (how any Brits reading this post will chuckle when they see that. Lucky buggers!)

The Gewurztraminer was quite smart and very Alsace-like. The crude star anis and clove nose you frequently get from cut-price Gewurz was not in evidence, just a hint of sharp spice before the lychees and allied things kicked in.

Less said about the Merlot the better. All burnt stewed fruit like a lot of Merlot away from its Bordeaux heartland. Every time I try one, Chile, South Africa, Oz I keep finding myself saying “Why…?”

SQ – New Italian Wines

Okay, I know, I'm drinking Campari. But I do like Italian wines.
Okay, I know, I'm drinking Campari. But I do like Italian wines.

Superquinn continues to update its wine range, with the relaunch of its Italian offering this month. Sixteen new wines have been selected by Superquinn wine buyerRichard Moriarty, taking the range of Italian wines to 56. Most of the new wines are exclusive to Superquinn and come from regions the length and breadth of Italy – from Alto Adige in the Alps, down to Sicily.

Some of the new wines include:

Costacielo – the Lunarossa winery stands in the hills on the Salerno peninsula, mid-way between the Amalfi and Cilento coasts. The company is regarded as one of the new gems of the Campania region; its forward-looking approach is underlined by the strikingly modern presentation of the wines. Lunarossa has a strong belief in the potential of the area’s traditional grapes, often combining these with international varieties to create interesting new blends of aroma and flavour. Costacielo Fiano Falanghina is priced at €17.99.

Cusumano – Sicily with its rugged terrain, sunny climate and high quality indigenous grapes is at last starting to show the world its potential for quality. Third generation family winemakers Alberto and Diego Cusumano are typical of the new wave of Sicilian producers. Cusumano Inzolia and Cusumano Nero D’Avola are priced at €10.99 each.

Tolloy – Alto Adige is one of the most picturesque landscapes in Europe. The presence of the Alps, which protects the region from the cold winds originating in the north, and the influence of the Mediterranean climate grant the ideal conditions for an extraordinary viticultural variety. Tolloy Gewurtztraminer Alto Adige, Tolloy Merlot Alto Adige and Tolloy Pinot Bianco Alto Adige are priced at €10.99 each.

Villa Sparina – Located in Monterotondo, the heart of Gavi DOC, Villa Sparina was founded by Mario Moccagatta. Head enologist Beppe Caviola, one of the foremost winemakers in Piemonte, has brought Gavi to new heights exploring the full potential of the Cortese grape. All of the Villa Sparina wines are produced from estate grown fruit and are estate bottled. The vineyards are overseen by agronomist Federico Curtaz, formerly of Gaja. They are increasingly oriented towards reducing yields, in an effort to achieve the highest possible quality. Harvest is delayed until the last possible moment, giving the wines great concentration and a wonderful balance of acidity and fruit. Villa Sparina Gavi Di Gavi is priced at €17.99.

The relaunch of Italian wine at Superquinn coincides with a special promotion in Superquinn stores, which will run for four weeks from 15th April to 12th May 2009 inclusive, when consumers can save up to 50% off selected Italian wines.

The above information comes from the Superquinn press release. I don’t know much about Tolloy but Cusumano, Costacielo and Villa Sparina, I really rate as producers. I drank a lot of the Cusumano Inzolia as my regular lunchtime tipple on my holiday in Sicily last year. Goes great with triglie (red mullet). The Villa Sparina Gavi is very fine too. And I’ve just looked at my notes to see I gave a heads-up to a Costacielo wine at the Gilbey’s tasting earlier this year.

This is a bold move by SQ, great to see a supermarket veering away from the ‘usual suspects’.  I wish them success with it.


Superquinn Italian Sale

Just had this from SQ

OVER 50 Italian wines reduced to €5.00 at Superquinn, this weekend only

“From Thursday 18th to Sunday 21stSeptember shoppers will be able to stock up on their favourite Italian wines* at up to 80% off the normal retail price, with a further 5% off when they purchase any six bottles.

Over 50 wines are included in the clearance, selling at €5 strictly while stocks last.

Superquinn’s end of summer clearance offers a huge range of wines that usually retail from €5.49 right up to €30.59, all retailing for just €5 a bottle this weekend,

included in the sale are:


Tommasi Valpolicella Amarone, €5.00 (Normal RSP €30.59)

This is a classic Amarone, with dark morello cherry fruits layered over a raisin fruit core, pure elegance and class.

Castello D’Albola Chianti Classico, €5.00 (Normal RSP €24.49)

This Chianti comes from the heartland of the Chianti region in Tuscany, with woodland and cherry flavours with a dark smoky background.

Marques de Collavini Pinot Grigio, €5.00 (Normal RSP €12.99)

Italy is the heartland of Pinot Grigio which is fast becoming one of the most popular styles of white wine in Ireland._ This wine is crisp with green apple flavours and a hint of nuttiness on the finish.

Casa Mia Organic Grillo, €5.00 (Normal RSP €8.99)

Sicily has become one of the heartlands of organic wine, with its beneficial climate negating the need for the use of chemicals._ Grillo is indigenous to Sicily and offers rounded melon flavours that can age.

*A limit of 6 bottles per customer will apply

**Sparkling wines are not included in the sale




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Talking Wine Label

Italian printer Modulgraf has created a system for embedding chips into paper labels that can be read with handheld devices. Based on RFID, the system allows buyers to listen to information about the wine and even hear a bit of music before they quaff the wine.
Can you imagine: “This wine is great with red and white meat, fish, cheese….” aaagh

The company, which holds the patent for the microchip technology employed by many top wineries in the battle against wine falsification, prints labels for some of the biggest Italian wine producers including Ornellaia, Arnaldo Caprai and Tenuta Campo al Sasso, the new Antinori joint venture.

According to Daniele Barontini, president of the design company, the new technology is geared towards luxury wines and wine aficionados.

‘The label will retain its square or rectangular shape, design and colour. It will be made of plastic and can actually be removed and ‘read’ like a CD. The producer’s voice will explain the merits of the wine, give particulars of the vintage, and talk about the estate,’ he told Decanter Magazine

The inventor of the technology, Florentin Doring, has already used the product successfully with books in other markets. A special label reader, similar to a walkman, also manufactured by Modulgraf, will be needed to listen to the label. The reader, which is likely to be expensive, will be purchased by high-end wine shops, restaurants and collectors who intend to buy the specially-labeled wines.

‘Clearly, this is intended for a very select category of wines and consumers,’ said Barontini.

While he says there is great interest in the product, which is to be released this autumn, he declined to mention producers who have already ordered the new labels. It’s believed that many high end Tuscan producers are expressing interest.

‘Many of the producers interested are also looking at this as the ultimate safeguard in the constant battle against the counterfeit wine industry,’ said Barontini, since the ‘disk labels’ would be too difficult to reproduce.

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