Category Archives: Wine & Drink

Beer today…

Scraggybank ipa etc

When you want a beer there is little else will do. Especially after two bouts of wine judging in Italy in quick succession. On my return to Dublin I paid a visit to the excellent Drink Store in Stoneybatter and purchased half a dozen bottles for drinking casually in the garden or for consuming with the earthy grub  I tend to eat when herself (who is more predisposed towards delicate fare) is away down the country visiting rellies.

First ones tasted were:

Früh, Kölsch.

This is a light-ish beer (4.7% abv) emanating from Cologne where kölsch has enjoyed a protected status since  1997. Though many think it to be a lager, it is not, being top-fermented (though it is cold-conditioned afterwards). An attractive straw-gold in colour, the Früh Kölsch is balanced and appealing, with a distinct, though not over-aggressive hoppyness.  On the palate, it is initially dry and zippy before it mellows to evince honey and, surprisingly, white grape undertones. Enjoyable and certainly food-friendly.

Kinnegar Scraggy Bay India Pale Ale

5.3% abc, unfiltered, naturally-carbonated (pour carefully) from a Donegal company I’d not come across before, Scraggy Bay, once I’d stopped thinking of it in Father Ted terms, proved to be a civilised drink, one I’d call a ‘session beer’ where I’d be happy to quaff a few.  The term India Pale Ale or IPA has become so over-used by craft brewers it is now devoid of all meaning.  This one had that ‘orange peel and coriander’ vibe that I find in many examples of the genre but not to excess. In other words it stopped short of ‘marmalade’.

Founders Brewing ‘Curmudgeon’

Given the name, I should probably adopt this beer. It’s from Quebec, comes in a 335 ml bottle and racks up a powerful 9.8% abv. Molasses and oak ageing (for how long I don’t know) are the keys to its brooding intensity. At first swally it reminded me of one of those dark Münchner beers turbocharged to hell – high lift cams and fat tyres too, but thankfully, no spoiler or go-fast stripes. Curmudgeon wore its alcohol well and the lick of malty sweetness in no way detracted from what was a very well constructed and quite dry beer. A sipper, rather than a quaffer. I spent the rest of the evening debating what food you could team it with but could only come up with the banal ‘chocolate’. Maybe mature cheddar or 24-month Coolea. I’ll try.

My favourite beer glass (shown in the picture) was my father’s. A golf relic, though whether a prize or a gift from Mrs and Mrs Captain I’ll never know, it holds 500 ml if you pour carefully.

Wine Goggles – my personal wine tasting notes App – update on progress

The quest for the best wine tasting notes app goes on. I’m eagerly awaiting the opportunity to be a beta tester on the new, improved version of Wine Notes. In the interim I  thought I’d have a crack at designing my own app for the purpose and so Wine Goggles, now in V2.4, is the result.

winegog 1

Screen shot of Wine Goggles data entry form running on an iPad Mini 2 Retina

Wine Goggles is  based on the popular database HanDbase which – although there’s a massive learning curve as it’s very full-featured, plus  the originator’s support system is, frankly, worse than useless – pays off if you persevere, particularly as there is a long list of very generous users who have made their own database apps (for infinite purposes) freely available to anyone purchasing HanDbase, currently priced around a tenner, plus a fiver for the bolt-on goodie, Form Designer.

Wine Goggles has built on the experience of a couple of these guys, main difference being, it’s aimed at the heavy-duty wine taster, rather than the enthusiast who tastes a small number of wines with the aim of adding a few to his cellar.

The new version of Wine Goggles works on my Macs, desk and laptop; the iPad and the iPhone. It was principally designed for the iPad mini, which I consider the best balance between size, portability, readability and ease of use by podgy fingers.

Information it stores includes: Classification of Tasting; Date; Name of Wine; Vintage; Appellation (for France only at the minute); Region; Country; Cépage; ABV%; Price; Appearance; Bouquet; Mouthfeel; Palate; Finish; Comments; Score/Award and Stockists – this last is important to me as in Ireland we have easily 100 independent wine outlets and typing their names into copy is a considerable chores for me. Others may not find this important. The default scoring system is the 20 point system (in half point grades) which is the one Martin and I use in our Sunday Times tastings. Wouldn’t be difficult to re-vamp as 100 pointer.

To aid input, Wine Goggles makes maximum use of pop-up lists and most info may be added with no more than a finger dab or two.  Compared to most of these apps it is very fast to use. Also, most of the pop-ups are user editable so you can add your own personal aromas or flavours – “dad’s  3-year old squash shoes” or “fruity and full-bodied”, no problem.

It has other useful facilities, not least the ability to e-mail a wine’s record. Plus a comprehensive “search” feature. And you can also take a snap of the bottle label from within the program.

Not bad for a beginner, methinks. I doubt Wine Goggles will ever see the light of day as a commercial proposition as there are so many apps of this kind already in existence – my move to Palo Alto is on hold! Nevertheless I do think it matches any wine tasting app around for speed of use and outdoes most of them for comprehensiveness.

Wish list? Yes, it’s a bit of an ugly duckling. I’d love Wine Goggles to have a more sexy, tactile feel like Wine Notes with its pretty graphics and novel features, like the sliders that allow you to capture a wine’s colour. But, given that I’m already at the outer limit of my technical universe, it ain’t gonna happen.

Here are some more screen shots:-

winegog 2 winegog 3 winegog 4




The Best Wine Tasting Apps

winescribe 1

I’m a fan of technology. So much so that James, my nephew, now in his twenties christened me ‘The Gadget Man’ almost as soon as he was old enough to get the words out. What is more, I am not, by nature a terribly organised person. Distinctly right-brained people rarely are. So if technology can help purge some of the chaos from my life I call it up.

For about the last 5 or 6 years I’ve been looking for a convenient way of writing wine tasting notes and storing them on my desktop computer. The advent of the iPod Touch and  indeed, the iPhone was manna from heaven to me… or so I thought. I downloaded a few apps, tried them out. People who saw me tapping away at tastings were intrigued. However, I realised early on that most of the early apps in this field were devised with cellar management in mind. The excellent Vinoteka, which I now use solely  to manage my meagre collection of  bottles laid down being a case in point. Its deployment for this task will save me a repeat of the 1985 Bandol disaster – in 2011 I came across 3 bottles squirrelled  away under the floorboards in a spare room; all were oxidised to hell.

When it came to writing tasting notes most of the apps were too simplistic.  Others were too unwieldy. With much regret I went back to pen and notebook, or, to be truthful, an indiscriminate collection of notebooks that served to compound the aforesaid chaos. The  recent purchase of an iPad Mini rekindled my  interest so I revisited the App Store to see if the passage of time had thrown up better stuff. It had. I’ve been using Wine Notes, one of the most beautiful and ‘sexy’ Apps in any genre, IMO. For the average wine lover, who probably tastes/drinks a dozen bottles a month over 3-4 sittings Wine Notes is a lovely app to have and use. The click-in lists of aroma and flavour descriptors is  comprehensive as most would need – if not,  it can be edited to add the likes of ‘gun-smoke’, ‘wattle seed’, ‘Marmite’ ‘three year old Nike trainers’  or whatever. There are gorgeous maps; a built-in database of wines; a facility to snap a barcode and more. 

Flavoor picker

Alas, for the wine writer, who has to taste a high number of wines in a short space of time, Wine Notes is just too cumbersome. It initially only worked on the iPhone and iPod Touch -the iPad, particularly the mini version, too my mind, strikes the best compromise between portability and convenience. FOOTNOTE: Today, messing, I found it works on the iPad too, obviously been updated.

But lately, I’ve found an app that seems to be designed for use by ‘professionals’ – a term I hate, but whatever. By which I mean people in the wine business, wine writers and keen WSET students. This app is called Winescribe and when it comes to vinous note-taking it really is as good as it gets.  It is easy and quick to use; offers help in the shape of drop-down lists – vintages, descriptors, etc and also has a ‘lightbox’ feature that enables judgement of a wine’s colour and clarity in, say, a dark, windowless tasting room. There’s a  compilation of wine terms (badged as ‘Dictionary’,  a wee bit overblown) which early WSET students might find useful. There is also the facility to export your notes as an Excel spreadsheet on e-mail – a great feature for wine clubs. Also, uniquely I think, Winescribe offers the user a choice of employing the 100, 20 or 5 point scoring system. Competitions, particularly in Oz or New Zealand use the 20 point system almost exclusively, as do Martin Moran and I for our Sunday Times tastings.

I do have one or two quibbles. Chiefly that the list of descriptors is  too simplistic to suit the pros, all of whom have a wider wine vocabulary than the average wine lover, with, as I’ve outlined above, their own pet descriptors.  Having a list one could edit would be the perfect refinement (maybe in the next update, Mister Winescribe Developer).  The ‘Faulty’ section could be expanded – I couldn’t find ‘corked’ nor ‘bretty’ but that’s a minor quibble.

Lastly (and purely for the purposes of my Sunday Times Tastings) I would love the facility to create a list from which you could ‘pick with a click’. In my case I’d use it to incorporate stockists, of which Ireland has more than the average. Cutting-and-pasting 5 or 6 for each wine, from a database of 50+ outlets is trying and time-consuming, I find. For writers in the UK, where 90% of the wines are in the hands of  four or five major supermarket chains , this might not be seen as a problem.

I purchased Winescribe on the App Store – it is specifically designed for the iPad – for €4.99.

WEBSITES (iPad) (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad) (MAC)

For an ingenious and useful app that doesn’t fit the spec as outlined above try

FOR A’ THAT – A review of The Big Burns Supper, Dumfries Jan 24th – 26th 2014

Last weekend I attended the Big Burns Supper 2014, a festival held annually in the pleasant town of Dumfries to celebrate Scotland’s national poet.

devorgilla 1

According to a Scots poet of a later generation, Edwin Muir, the charm of Robert Burns is that he can be all things to all men. Burns represents, he claimed, “to the respectable, a decent man; to the Rabelaisian, bawdy; to the sentimentalist, sentimental; to the socialist, a revolutionary; to the nationalist, a patriot; to the religious, pious”. The sub-text  is, whatever you want your own personal Burns to be, he will be.

The appeal of Burns to the Scots and to their considerable diaspora is easy to understand. He wrote not in highfalutin English but in Scots, for the Scots. He was not afraid to sprinkle his prose and verse with dialect words and phrases. Much of the stuff he wrote has populist appeal, as witness his masterly reworking of a limping old ballad that’s now sung around the world at the turn of the year and been recorded by Bing Crosby, Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, Boney M and Kenny G, to name but a handful of those who’ve tried their hand at ‘Auld Lang Syne’.

On the flight to Scotland, I allowed myself to speculate as to how the Scots should package Burns to widen the appeal, particularly non-Caledonians. Easy, I decided. Here we have a guy who was anti-authoritarian, even seditious. A convivial soul who liked nothing better than hanging around with his pals and downing a few scoops. A graffiti artist, too. Better yet, he looked like the young Elvis, wrote like Shakespeare and put it about like Sven Goran-Ericksen The Swedish Love Machine. Someone should make the movie. But please… spare us Mel Gibson.

At which point we touched down in Glasgow. Half an hour later I had a pristine, ten miles on the clock Arnold Clark-supplied Opel Astra under me and we were winging our way down the M74, destination Dumfries where the 2014 Big Burns Supper festival was to kick off on the morrow. Having time to spare I got off the motorway north of Moffat and drove past enthralling scenery to show Ann, my wife, the Devil’s Beef Tub, a deep, dramatic, swirling hole in the hills. Thereafter, we retraced our steps before meandering down the scenic A702, stopping for lunch in the well-kept town of Thornhill, birthplace of mega-talented and drop-dead-gorgeous Scottish singer, Emily Smith.

In Dumfries, a place I have only happy memories of, there is a camera obscura, a device that’s a precursor of photography. When the weather permits, it shows you a panoramic image of the town on the inner wall of the building. The custodian was, I remember, always at pains to point out the swans on the River Nith; also The Crichton – “Yin’s the biggest lunatic asylum in Scotland”. I was amused but awed to find that this was the location of our hotel for this trip. On arrival, I found the shadows of the past had been vanquished and that the extensive grounds now host the Royal Infirmary, a business park, two college campuses and The Aston, a fine hotel housing a Marco Pierre White restaurant where we dined with Rosemary and Andrea from the organising team of the Big Burns Supper, who outlined the concept to me.

The festival, first held in the town in 2012, aims to celebrate, via a programme of concerts, comedy, cabaret and community participation, the poet’s life and work. Burns, who died at 37 spent but the last four years of his life here, yet produced fully a quarter of his output during that period. A spiegeltent, a large travelling show tent, constructed in wood and canvas and decorated with mirrors and stained glass, had been erected in the town centre and this was to be the core venue for the festival’s programme. There would be a procession through the town lit by 1,000 lantern. 5,000 individual Burns suppers – haggis, neaps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes) would be served up over the course of the event.

Whisky 1

After dinner, we wasted no times in getting into the festival spirit, perhaps literally, by attending an event titled ‘Whisky for Dafties’, an introduction to the delights of Scottish single malt, hosted in robust fashion by comedian/whiskey fanatic Alan Anderson.

Session 1

Afterwards we repaired to The Globe, Dumfries’ oldest pub and Burns’ local where an impromptu music session was underway in the compact ‘Snug’ and a more formal one in ‘The Room’. We opted for informality. The Globe’s manager Jane Brown, herself a devotee of the poet (and President of the worldwide Robert Burns Society) kindly showed us the upstairs bedroom where our hero enjoyed assignations with the Globe’s blonde barmaid Anna Park. Burns’ other amusement while at his favourite ‘howff’ was to inscribe poems on the windows with a diamond-tipped pen. Some of these poems may still be seen.

Ellisland 1

Next day we visited Ellisland Farm, Burns’ first home in the region, a few miles outside Dumfries, where curator Les Byers, impressive custodian of the poet’s lore and legend gave us more inside track. Dumfries, he advised, was in those days a prosperous, bustling town, more important even than Glasgow as the hub of the lucrative trade in tobacco, a commodity imported through the nearby port of Carsethorn wherefrom, in 1851 alone, more than 21,000 people emigrated to Canada, The States, Australia and New Zealand.

Rockliffe 1

After taking leave of Les, we headed for the sea ourselves, seizing the opportunity of a break in the wet weather to walk on the beach at Rockcliffe and ramble up and over to Kippford via the Jubilee Path, something I’d done many times before.

Spiegel 1

Later we attended Le Haggis, an event that fully justified its billing as as “the sexiest show in the festival”, a ninety minute extravaganza involving music, song, cabaret and an amazing display of dexterity, fitness and physique by a pair of burlesque acrobats. In the interim, the band, fronted by a fabulous girl singer (who sings, as I was informed, in the local community choir) brought real meaning to ‘A man’s a man for a’ that’, a song more frequently maladroitly performed either as a turgid dirge or as a jolly knees-up. Another performance that nearly had the tent crashing down on us was a vibrant rendition, by a lassie garbed in a leather basque and ‘sussies’ of Kirsty MacColl’s ‘In These Shoes’.

We attended the lantern procession, a truly amazing sight. More than 30 local groups and organisations took part in the parade, accompanied by several floats and huge puppets. Kudos to the Manchester (another town dear to my heart) Samba School whose rhythmic momentum, aided by a brace of pipe bands, drove the whole thing along. Afterwards, we ducked the late night Roller Disco “I’m not comfortable without my own skates, hehe.” “Yeah, right”, says my wife.

Dick Gaughan 1

Highlight of the next day was, for me, the live performance in the Spiegeltent, of Dick Gaughan, a master interpreter of both traditional and contemporary songs and a guitar genius, whom I first met when I was co-hosting a folk club in England back when Burns was a lad (well, not quite). A dish of the obligatory haggis and its customary trappings fortified us for pints, first in The Ship, my own ‘local’ back in the days when my acquaintanceship with Dumfries was more regular than it is today. The pints there are as honest as ever and the denizens still play dominoes, altogether another proper pub holding back the tide of muzak and expensive swill. Later, in the packed-to-the-rafters Globe we dissected the event with other festival attendees and learned of myriad delights we’d missed. At the end of the evening a girl we met in the street offered to walk us to the taxi rank to ensure we did not get lost, where else on earth would you get that sort of courtesy these days? Truly, Doonhamers (the inhabitants of Dumfries – I’ll explain another time) are salt of the earth.

The festival’s organisers deserve huge credit for The Big Burns Supper. I feel sure it’s an event that will, year on year, grow in stature, appealing not only to the Burns anorak, the patriot and the emigré, but to the wider body of people out there, of every race and creed, who enjoy song, dance, theatre, literature, merrymaking, the craic and just having a great time. Me, I intend coming back – for a’ that.



Homecoming Scotland 2014  In 2014, Scotland will welcome the world as we take to the global stage and celebrate our nation through a year-long series of exciting events. Complementing the Ryder Cup and Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, Homecoming Scotland will be a celebration of the country’s rich culture, natural beauty, active adventures and creative heritage. For more information go to: 

Accommodation  I stayed at Aston Hotel, Dumfries


Big Burns Supper

Ellisland Farm, Dumfries

Dumfries Museum & Camera Obscura The Observatory, Rotchell Road Dumfries DG2 7SW


Recipes for Burns Night

Complete Works of Robert Burns 


I spent an interesting morning watching 3FEs new commercial Probat roaster, now up and running in a secret location in Dublin Docklands. I was taken there, blindfolded, by 3FE’s Colin Harmon.

Looking at the beast, which kicks out god knows how many Kg, it struck me as incredible how similar both hardware and techniques were to my own efforts with the 500g capacity Huky 500. Strange, too, to think we both get our beans via Steve Leighton’s ‘Hasbean’ in the UK with whom I’be been dealing for close on 10 years.

Comparing the two machines there are many similarities. Both have:

rotating drum

entry funnel

heat source

bean tester

gauges – 1 digital (bean mass) 1 analogue (ambient)

extraction flap

fan for cooling the beans.

Factor in a stop watch, a chart* and a pen and there you have it!

Like mine, 3FE’s  roaster is all manual and very ‘hands-on’ as Pete, 3FE’s roasting supremo, testified.In neither case can you walk away and smoke a ciggie (I don’t), pour a drink (I have been known to) or make a phone call otherwise things tend to go pear-shaped. Only difference being, if I cock up a roast it’s a minor disappointment. If Pete does it, it’s a commercial tragedy.

At the end of the morning Pete gave me a quantity of the ‘greens’ he was roasting – in return for extracting a promise to to supply a sample after I’ve roasted them. Phew! The hard work begins here.

For the anoraks among you, the beans are 3FE Costa Rica Farami Di Dota Yellow Honey Cattura, promising “a big hit of milk chocolate that quickly turns into a stewed fruit and honey-like mouthfeel that just goes on and on.” The aftertaste promises “hints of cherry with a super clean finish”. Looking forward.

These  beans are available from 3FE’s café outlet at 32 Lower Grand Canal Street, Dublin 2.Probat 1Huky Monster

My roasting chart

* This chart is the Mk3 version. I’m now on Mk4



 Julie Dupouy, Director of Wines at Donnybrook, Dublin delicatessen and restaurant  Donnybrook Fair recently became the first sommelier representing Ireland to reach the semi-finals of the European Sommelier Championship, held, this year in Sanremo, Italy. 

Julie Dupouy

The Championship, in which experts from the various European countries take part in a series of blind tasting, wine and food pairings and theoretical knowledge, has been running since 1988 and is widely regarded as Europe’s definitive sommelier contest. Julie, who joined Donnybrook Fair this year, competed under the critical scrutiny of a Technical Commission made up of the world’s top three sommeliers plus a Master of Wine.  Her record-breaking performance lifted her to 8th place in the European rankings.

Joe Doyle, owner of Donnybrook Fair said “The intensity of this competition can not be overstated. We are very lucky to be working with someone of Julie’s calibre. Qualifying for the semi-finals of such a prestigious event was an outstanding achievement. Everyone at Donnybrook Fair is thrilled.”


PEAR SHAPED! When a roast goes wrong

Introduced a new element into the roasting equation today, a newly-designed roasting log and a stop watch – purpose being to help me control the roast and get repeatable optimum results – YEAH, RIGHT!


Scan 5

Obsessed with clocking everything, I ballsed-up. Couldn’t get the ‘Fall’ temp down anywhere near 100 C; Dehydration stage only lasted 3 minutes and roast romped up to 1st crack quicker than you could say “Burundi Ngozi Mugamera washed” by which time I was a bag of nerves and let it go well past 2nd crack for a near Naples roast, of which I’m not terribly fond.

Nothing to do but pour myself a large Hennessy Fine de Cognac and switch on the telly.

Next one will be better.


ERN_0018 nicecup


Presently salivating over the prospect of drinking a lovely espresso from my new cup and saucer, which Ann brought back from Nice as a prezzie.

Must also mention my new fave blend, a 300 gram roast in The Huky Monster, comprising: 200g El Salvador Finca Argentina Fincona 2 Tablon Bourbon Natural + 50g Costa Rica Herbazu Honey Roasted + 50g Burundi Ngozi Mugomera Washed.

Roasted to somewhere between City and Full City (lifted at 225C), beans dark brown but positively no shine. All ‘greens’ from

Right, that’s the nerdy bits over, what does it taste like? Well, I developed this blend to get me the ultimate ‘flat white’. The main constituent, the Finca Argentina was described by Hasbean’s Steve Leighton as ‘black forest gâteau’ and that’s not a bad description. I fancy I roast a tad darker than he does which means I’ve swapped some (but not all) of the black cherry and forest fruit notes for an accentuation of the rich chocolate and caramel character. The Herbazzu, on its own quite acidic, balances the blend with a trace of lemon and lime zest, plus a further layer of dark chocolate. The Burundi, quite a big bruiser as a solo espresso, adds vanillin tannin and a touch of woodsmoke, the latter a bit like the effect of peat on malt whisky. The whole makes a complex and, I think, enchanting brew.

Over the last couple of days I’ve been drinking it as espresso. Here the toffee and chocolate are sllghtly more muted, with the red wine notes (Grenache-ish?) pushed to the fore. Decent kit.

THE WINE BUNCH – Bumper tasting – Mart ‘n’ Me do Southern Rhône

SRhone 1


 Part of the purpose of commissioning this tasting was to try and assess whether the various cru and village wines could hack it when put up against the big boys from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, writes Ernie Whalley. The answer proved to be ‘yes, they can’ but au fond the best Châteauneufs retained that extra edge with greater complexity, power and purpose. At around the €40 mark they seem expensive but if you compare them to equivalently priced wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux  they punch well above their weight. Red Châteauneuf tends to be big, beefy and not for the faint of heart. In a year when the grapes ripen to permit maximum extraction the alcohol levels can be fatiguing. In dry years the tannins can sometimes overwhelm. Grenache is the key grape, with the modern tendency being to up the percentage of Syrah is the blend in order to round out the wine. In matching terms, Châteauneuf-du-Pape works best with robust food – beef, game, duck and rustic casseroles spring to mind immediately. 14 tasted, here are our top picks.

 Domaine La Roubine Vacqueras 2010 €21 and independents nationwide. SILVER

 EW: A characterful big mulberry and plum fruited wine, with an intriguing lick of black pepper at the back end (cinsault in the blend?). Concentrated but not jammy. 
MM: Quite Châteauneuf-du-Pape like with rich, plum, prune and liquorice but also lively perfume and savoury notes.
La Cote Sauvage 2009 Cairanne around €17.99, selected independents. SILVER
EW: Smartly-made populist wine from the ‘most likely to be upgraded’ village, with enjoyable toast, liquorice, tobacco and black tea notes in among the dense plum and blackberry fruit. Huge drinkability. 
MM: Very more-ish with great drinkability as its plum and red berry fruit is yet never heavy, tannins are soft and it has a refreshing finish.
Chateau de Vaudieu Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2010 €40.99  World Wide Wines, The Parting Glass, Fallon & Byrne,, Wine Well Off Licence GOLD
EW: Power and subtlety, broad-shouldered as Paul O’Connell but with the dancing feet of a classy out-half. The pot-pourri nose, with violets and sandalwood in there, is almost worth the price of the bottle. 
MM: A bit of an elephant in a tutu. It has complex perfumed nose showing violets and finesse and elegant acid but in between it’s intense, epic even with rich plummy, pruney fruit.
Clos de L’Oratoire des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape 2010 €45 The Parting Glass, Enniskerry, Co Wicklow; Callans, Louth; selected independents SILVER
EW: Intense, weighty, serious, brooding wine that maintains your interest down to the last drop in the glass. Serious kit from a fine producer.
MM: A classic of the appellation with a complex array of soft rich fruit including plum, prune and raisin
vines CDP


“Why buy Rhône”, I’m often asked, writes Ernie Whalley. Okay, here we go. First off you get great bang for your buck. The Southern Rhone is the region of France’s most user friendly reds and they are available for easy money. To get equivalent quality from Bordeaux, you’d be paying at least a fiver more. Better yet, because of the southerly latitude the grapes are rarely underripe, even in a modest year. The result is rich, rounded wine, taylor-made for drinking in a cooler climate like ours. The stoney soil and moderate rainfall keeps yields relatively low, giving a further boost to quality. Some Côtes du Rhône is made using the carbonic maceration process (akin to Beaujolais). This produces jolly, fresh-tasting uncomplicated wines made, mostly for immediate drinking. However, there are in the region, many producers with aspirations and the four wines we’ve chosen from our 16 tasted would certainly not suffer from being kept for 3-4 years. Not that this will happen, of course, given the Irish predilection for drinking wines within hours of getting them home!

 Domaine Goisbault 2010 Approach Trade  €15.50 Dalys, Gorey, Co Wexford; The Kingdom, Tralee, Co Kerry; Nectar Wines, Sandyford, Co Dublin; Next Door Myles Creek, Kilkee, Co Clare. SILVER

EW: Supple, quite complex, with a hint of white pepper on the nose. Pluperfect fruit/acid balance distinguished this organic, extremely appealing wine.
MM: Fascinating and very different complex organic wine, intriguingly perfumed with peppery notes, dark fruits and fresh acidity. Lovely.
Les Deux Cols 2012 Cuvée d’Alizé €14.50, D4;, Portmarnock, Co Dublin. BRONZE
EW: Lovely ripe, soft, rounded, predominantly grenache fruit makes this wine a pleasure to drink. A lot of class for the money.
MM: More concentration than you’ve a right to expect for this level with plenty of soft scented rich dark berry and plum fruit.
Domaine Didier Charavin Lou Paris 2011  €15.65 SILVER
EW: A strong syrah component makes this grippy, dramatic,impactful seem more Northern than Southern Rhône. Lashings of plum and dark berry fruit and considerable complexity.
MM: Almost Crôzes-Hermitage like as the syrah in this comes through strongly with pepper and bacon notes plus soft black fruit.
Château Mont Redon 2011 €16.50 Mortons D6; Savages, Swords, Co Dublin; Fresh stores;  D-Six Off-Licence, D6; Whelans, Wexford Street, D8 BRONZE
EW: Entry level wine from a Châteauneuf-du-Pape estate of repute. Rich plum, berry and figgy fruit makes for enjoyable drinking.
MM: A mini-me from a famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape estate with rich slightly raisiny fruit and good length.

 Read Martin Moran and Ernie Whalley every week in The Sunday Times IRL ‘Sunday’ Magazine

THE WINE BUNCH TASTING – Picpoul de Pinet (Sept. 2013)


After years in the vinous equivalent of the broom cupboard, picpoul de pinet has finally made it to the dining room sideboard. This crisp, refreshing white wine from Languedoc is starting to appear on more and more restaurant menus, particularly touted as an accompaniment to fish. At the same time, those who are partial to a glass of white at home are coming to appreciate picpoul as a pleasant alternative to the likes of sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio. Notable for an initial rakish acidity (the name can be translated as ‘lip stinger’) the wine mellows in the mouth, rounding out and revealing bright, fresh flavours of apple, pear, yellow plums and other stone fruit. I find the pear element handy when it comes to assessing quality; the better versions taste of fresh fruit and not of peardrops. An engaging summer sipper, picpoul comes into its own when teamed with oysters, mussels, whitebait and crab – think of it as ‘Southern Muscadet’ and you won’t be far out.

Felines de Jourdan 2012 €12.75 BRONZE
EW: apples and pears and a touch of lemon and lime – all you’d expect from picpoul. Energising minerality and a pleasing, classy presence.
MM: A classic of the style with a light chalky mineral note mixed with pears, apple, and citrus fruit.
Domaine Combe Rouge 2012 €11.99
Egans, Drogheda, Co Louth and other independents  BRONZE
EW: Lots of crisp apple fruit and a livening tinge of pink grapefruit. Great fruit/acid balance from this sound wine from a very savvy co-operative.
MM: Perfect for the end of summer with a refreshing mix of tangy grapefruit, pear, red apple and grapefruit.
Villemarin Blanc de Blanc 2012 €13.49 SILVER
EW: Intriguing herbal hints (oregano?) on the nose. A melange of pear, apple, stonefruit, and grapefruit makes for quite a complex and very enjoyable wine. 
MM: A slightly riper style with good concentration and attractive peach notes alongside the expected red apple and pear, with a fresh lemony finish.
EW: With apple, pear and white peach flavours, this wine is sound rather than profound with a weight and depth of flavours distinguishing it from many of the others we tasted.
MM: A very more-ish mix. A fruit salad combining nectarine, Williams pear and red apple. Good length too.