Category Archives: Wine & Drink

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

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 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
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“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.

THE WINE BUNCH TASTING – Rioja Week 2 (August 2013)

Rioja W2
Our second Rioja tasting provided an opportunity to sample 12 reservas – aged for at least three years, with at least one year spent in oak, writes Ernie Whalley. Originally French oak barrels were exclusively employed but economics eventually dictated that American oak staves were imported and fashioned into casks in Spanish cooperages. Latterly, many producers have gone back to using French oak, or a mix of French and American. Long aging before release became a tradition – the Marques de Murrieta bodega only released its 1942 Gran Reserva in 1983! Nowadays wines are made for earlier drinking although  “ We age the wine so you don’t need to” is still a USP. Most of you will have spent €24 on a bottle of wine – in a restaurant and I bet the wine was no great shakes. I’d urge you to consider, even if as a once-off treat, buying one of these beauties. Martin and I concurred that no red from Bordeaux or Burgundy at equivalent price would come close. 


Lindes de Remelluri 2009 €21.95 Next Door@Myles Creek, KIlkee, Co Clare; MacGuinness, Dundalk, Co Louth. GOLD
EW: A great balancing act, a carefully trod line between modern and classical styles. Cutting barrel aging to 12 months has helped produce a graceful satisfying wine with abundant fruit. Nuances of spice, figs, plums and blackberries.
MM: Very classy drop with attractive black fruit, plum and fig with subtle oak use. Satisfyingly rich yet fresh palate that makes it all too easy to drink.
Ijalba Reserva 2007 19.95, Drogheda, Co Louth  and nationwide SILVER
EW: Rounded, soft single estate grown fruit; cherries, soft plums raisins and a touch of blackcurrant with subtle ‘garrigue’ wild herbal notes coming in right at the back end. Well-developed, stylish wine. Organic.
MM: Spain’s answer to Chateauneuf-du-Pape with its rich soft slight raisiny style with no single fruit character dominating. Striking label.
Remelluri Reserva 2008, Glasthule, Co Dublin;,, D6; Black Pig, D4; ;, Boyle, Co Roscommon; McCambridges, Galway; www..;  Next Door@Myles Creek, KIlkee, Co Clare; SILVER
EW: Old fashioned, classical kit from Rioja’s oldest estate. Oak and fruit perfectly integrated. Fantastic persistence, goes on and on. Save the second half of the bottle for when the others have gone home and savour in your favourite chair.
MM: Not flashy or obvious but quietly delicious as it sails serenely across the palate offering a satisfying richness and terrific persistence.
Marques de Murrieta Reserva 2007 Finca Ygay, around €24  Vintry, Rathgar D6;, nationwide;, D6 GOLD
EW: Massively rich wine, regal in its power and majesty. Lots of concentration and kaleidoscopic nuances of aroma and flavour but everything perfectly integrated. Seems strange to talk of a €24 wine as ‘outstanding value for money’ but here it is.
MM: Hits the bulls eye with its great richness and persistence and all sorts of nuance of flavour including plum, raisin, coconut, vanilla and liquorice. Fantastic value compared to French classics.


THE WINE BUNCH Tasting – Rioja Week 1 (August 2013)

Rioja W1 ERN_0055
Rioja was first touted in the early 1970’s, introduced to us  by wine writers of the time, chiefly English, as an affordable Bordeaux alternative, writes Ernie Whalley. Few if any of these patrician gents bothered to mention that the key grape was tempranillo, not Bordeaux’s usual suspects. Of course there is a link, in that the Rioja vines escaped the late 19th century phylloxera epidemic. The devastation further north opened up the French market for Rioja and also brought both French capital and French winemakers to the region. Rioja is the most internationally recognised of all Spanish wines. The boom years of the 1980s and beyond were not an unmitigated blessing. As demand expanded, quality wavered and a run of poor vintages did nothing to help. Rioja is over it now. There are now two styles, one modern, more ‘international’, stemming from around 1970 when Marques de Cáceres started to experiment with new French oak; the other classical, whose proponents traditionally used second or third fill American oak casks, giving the wine long maturation in barrel. This week we taste crianza wines, in both styles. Here are our top four picks from the dozen we sampled.
La Hoja Crianza 2010
EW: Doing the job; clean, well put together plum and brambly fruit with a decent bit of character. Excellent value for money.
MM: Seems more like a reserva than a crianza with its rich plummy fruit, backed by tannin, oak and good length.
Vinasperi Crianza 2009
EW: A good example of the modern style of Rioja. Elegant nose, oak quite prominent, leading smoothly into a wealth of black fruit. Firm tannins resolving nicely.
MM: Plenty to like in this modern Rioja with its smooth, rich plumy feel and fine texture.
Vina Hermosa Crianza 2009; Dalys, Boyle, Co Roscommon;, Tralee, Co Kerry.
EW: Quite old-fashioned and isn’t it good that the traditional regional style is still out there.  Huge drinkability and charm from soft fruit, with nutty overtones.
MM: An intriguing cross of old and new styles with vibrant fruit but an oaky softness too. Great balance and drinkability
Rondan Crianza 2008 
EW: Nice old-fashioned style. Subtle hints of coconut and vanilla from the American oak floating on top of ripe-but-not stewed plum and cherry fruit, tapering to a long finish.
MM: A classic old-fashioned style but that’s no bad thing as there is plenty of soft berry and plum fruit, overlaid by coconut  and vanilla.

THE WINE BUNCH Tasting – Rosé Week 2 (August 2013)


For years, I hated rosé, writes Ernie Whalley. This almost certainly stemmed from memories of quaffing Mateus Rosé in student bedsits. The familiar flask-shaped green bottle held innocuous commercial plonk – kids’ stuff – no body, no character, too sweet to pair with food and lacking sufficient acidity to refresh. Curiously, Mateus is now in much better shape and I was quite surprised not to receive a bottle for our tasting. Now, like any other sort of convert, I’m a zealot for the cause; introducing full-on bone dry rosé to my friends, especially if there’s a sun in the sky. Grenache, Malbec, Merlot, Sangiovese, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Gamay rosé, bring it on!  Rosé has largely been considered uncool for years; unfortunate because it’s kept a lot of people from appreciating a wine that’s intensely food-friendly and, moreover, looks beautiful in the glass. The big surprise of the tasting was the performance of one rosé d’ Anjou, an appellation that never seemed to cop on that sweet-tinged, clingy wines are not where it’s at. Here are our second selection of four, making 8 from 24 in total.

Ch La Grave ‘Expression’ 2012 Minervois, €13.90 Ardkeen Stores, Waterford; Avoca, Monkstown; Searsons, Monkstown, Co Dublin. BRONZE


EW: Clean, friendly fruit, refreshing; some delicacy too, with a strawberries-and-cream appeal and an intriguing hint of marjoram, almost ‘garrigue’ herbs.


MM: Their red is always good so no surprise to see their rosé showing a an interesting array of fruit flavours of red pastille, apple and citrus overlaying a creamy mouthfeel.




La Clotiere Rosé d’Anjou 2012 Anjou €11.99 Baggot Street Wines, D4; Gibneys, Malahide, Co Dublin; Savages, Swords, Co Dublin;;, D5



EW: Pleasing, unflashy but solid wine and a real bargain to boot. All this from an appellation that almost invariably fails to deliver. Super casual drinking.


MM: The shock of the tasting. This is an attractively juicy fruity style rather than the cloying sugary rubbish normally sold under this appellation.




Ch Beaulieu  2012 Cuvée Alexandre Coteaux d’Aix en Provence €17.99; 64 Wine, Glasthule, Co Dublin;, Portmarnock, Co Dublin.  BRONZE


EW: Smart, fragrant nose redolent of rose hip & white peach. ‘Real wine’ on the palate with a huge juicy mouthfeel overlaid with cream. Dies a bit quick but what the hell, this is for guzzling on the lawn.


MM: Typical Provence rosé, lots of berry fruit, crisp dry and long. The essence of what you want for a party.




Douce Vie 2012 Bernard Magrez Les Muraires Cotes de Provence €15.95 Redmonds of Ranelagh, D6 and selected independents. BRONZE


EW: Great wine from a producer who carries a lot of clout. Nettly, herbal scents on the nose amid the strawberry fruit.  quite full-bodied, lot of fruit.


MM: A modern full-bodied fruity style filled with strawberry and pear flavours. One to enjoy with barbecued food.




THE WINE BUNCH Tasting: ROSE (Week One) July 2013


Ernie 1Martin Moran 1

One of the most compelling characteristics of a good rosé is youthful vivacity, writes Ernie Whalley. Rosés are made in different ways, including the blending of red and white wines together; by leaving the skins briefly in contact with the juice just before fermentation; or by a technique called saignée (‘bleeding’). When a winemaker desires to impart more body to a red wine, some of the pink juice from the must can be removed at an early stage. The red wine remaining in the vats is intensified as a result of the bleeding; the pink juice that is removed can be fermented separately to produce rosé. Rosé is best enjoyed during the warmer months, often in an out-of-doors location. The rosé fan seeks a fresh, lively wine with attractive strawberry, raspberry and, sometimes, cherry and/or redcurrant fruit. The colour is often a dead giveaway – faded wines and those from older vintages are best avoided. Overall we were surprised by the high quality of the 24 wines tasted. 8 chosen, these are the first four.

Chateau Bellevue La Fôret 2012, Fronton, €13.99 Martins, D3; Londis stores; Deveney’s, D14 and other independents. BRONZE
EW: Gutsier than your average rosé, this comes over fresh as a daisy with rich, joyful clean red fruit, enlivened by zippy spices and a citric touch.
MM: Irish owned chateau that appears to be in safe hands if this quite full bodied style with plenty of red currant like fruit is anything to go by
Bergerie l’Hortus  2012, Coteaux du Languedoc  €15.15  SILVER
EW: Mandarin, pink grapefruit and beautiful red berry fruit. Clean finish, class act.
MM: Hortus is a model of consistency. I’ve never had a bad wine from them and this serves up attractive berry fruit but also a slightly different, zesty orange note on the finish.
Chateau Haut Rian 2012 €12.00 BRONZE
EW: Good heft of strawberry and redcurrant  fruit, quite complex. Merlot and Cabernet working well together, quite ‘serious’ for rosé
MM: Weighty for a rosé with plenty of ripe fruit such as tinned strawberries, cherry and pear yet it stays tangy and fresh.
Ch de Sours 2012 Bordeaux €18.99 Deveney’s, D14;, D11 and selected independents. SILVER
EW: Strawberry, raspberry, grapefruit, touch of lemon verbena. Attractive, balanced, likeable and very high quality wine. As always, a benchmark, giving something for others to aim for.
MM: This chateau has a stellar reputation that is fully deserved. Consistently delivers subtle wild strawberry fruit, creamy texture and a zippy grapefruit finish. Delish.


Puffing Lily 1Lily 2

Just done the roast with ‘Puffing Lily’ aka The Hooky Monster. Glad it’s over with. I was very nervous because roasting with this beastie involves ‘real flames’. Also, fully manual control is not as comforting as my old HotProg (programmable version of the HotTop) where if things start to go tits up you can just press a switch and abort the program.

The Huky 500 is a beautiful beast, reminiscent of a collaboration between one of the old locomotive designers – George Stephenson, Isambard Kingdom Brunel – and Adolphe Sax, one of the 12 or so famous Belgians, maybe with a touch of Heath Robinson thrown in. It is robust and nicely engineered, mainly in stainless steel with an assortment of lovely wooden, maybe rosewood, handles. It has a bean trier device that actually works!

I roasted 300g, scaled up from the 250g of the HotProg, my most regular blend.

For the record it was:- 150g Nicaragua Finca La Fany Bourbon Washed + 100g Costa Rica Herbazu Honey Process + 50g Ethiopia Kebel Kercha Guji Natural. All supplied, as per usual by the excellent Steve at

Coffee was roasted to just short of 2nd crack. At the end everything happens very quickly – “Check the beans, hey, they’re okay; turn off the heat; remove the ‘saxophone’; empty the chaff; swing the bean dumper handle (remembering to hold the bean collector under the exit port); place collector over fan and switch fan on, if it isn’t already; turn off drum motor…” all in less time than it takes to say ‘Costa Rica Finca Nardo herbazu yellow washed honey process Villa Sarchi’ or similar!

Then, phew! chill. Take a sip of your favourite tipple.

Lovely even roast as the pic shows. The shot is a tad soft because it was a hand-held, no flash 1/20 at f2.8 and my hands were surely shaking!

Nice glass of rosé in the garden before I clear up, methought.




I WAS enjoying the rosé until the flash flood rain came in through the Yellow Room ceiling. If there’s one thing I hate it’s dilute rosé!

Yes, that first roast was a tad scary. With the old HotProg you slung the beans in at around 70-odd ºC and after around 17 mins a beep-beep announces the arrival of 212 ºC (a failsafe for those eejits who can’t be arsed to watch the display) whereupon you press a ‘Continue’ button. Shortly after which the roast finishes – 216 ºC-ish on most of the profiles I use. And the thermometer is fairly steady (makes me wonder how accurate it is) unlike the digital job on Puffing Lily’s bean mass probe which yaws constantly,up a tad, down a smidge, whoops, up again, needing constant tweaking. With the Huky you don’t bung the beans (300g) in until 240 ºC which had me worrying about what the combustion point of coffee is!

At the end of the roast things happen very quickly. You need to whip off the ‘saxophone’, empty the chaff from the collection tray and use the tray to collect the beans when you pull the ‘eject’ lever.


You might say its the difference between driving a DART train and the Flying Scotsman in days of steam locomotives. A completely different mind/skillset needed, not to mention constant attention. But absolutely no chance of dying of boredom.

Now, where did I put the tranquilizers….


Kudos and big thanks to Mr.Kuanho Li, designer and builder of the Huky 500, who replied to all my emails promptly and answered all my questions – even the daft ones! The roaster arrived from Taiwan in perfect condition in only 5 days.

THE WINE BUNCH Tasting: BORDEAUX REDS under €25 May 2012

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BORDEAUX REDS under €25 Week One

The charms of Bordeaux red wines are not lost on the Irish wine drinker, writes Ernie Whalley. ‘Claret’ has long been our  tipple of choice when the occasion causes for a wine de luxe. A birthday, an anniversary, the boss coming to dinner, away go the Chilean cabernet and the Aussie shiraz and in come the St.Emilion, the Pomerol, the Margaux, etc.

It’s worth remembering that Bordeaux’s blandishments are very vintage specific. Talking it through, Martin and I decided that the best advice we could dish out is “If Bordeaux’s had a bad year, go south.” Frequently a good way south, to warmer parts of Europe and to the New World.

As with pinot noir, we are splitting the results of this tasting – 38 wines in total – over three weeks. 25 of these were priced in the sub-€25 band, of which we have selected eight. Here are the first four. I’m sure it won’t escape your notice that the wines below are all from the stellar 2010 vintage.

Mademoiselle L 2010 Haut Medoc €24, The Vintry, Rathgar D6 and selected independents SILVER

EW: Beautiful wine, soft and polished yet with a well-structured tannic backbone  making it ‘a keeper’. Absolutely unblemished with most of the things I’d expect from Haut Medoc in a great vintage.

MM:  I could sniff this for ages with its classic Medoc aromas of graphite and black fruits. It’s still got some firm tannin so aerate it if drinking now. 


Château des Laurets Puisseguin Saint-Emilion 2010 €23.99  SILVER

EW: More classical in style, the merlot shining through the steely cabernet. There’s a Baron Edmond de Rothschild family restraint about this well-structured, stately wine.

MM: A wine that takes itself very seriously. Quite closed and tannic at first but air softens it to reveal damson, redcurrant and floral notes. Will become more complex as it ages.


Château Bauduc Clos des Quinze 2010 Côtes de Bordeaux €16.99, Cork;, Tipperary  BRONZE

EW: Developing beautifully and thanks to the effulgent 2010 vintage, good enough to squirrel away for a year or three. Supple and quite elegant.

MM: A wine to watch under the guidance of clever winemaker Gavin Quinney with enough attractive fruit and spice to drink now and structure to age if you prefer.


Château Haut Rian 2010 Côtes de Bordeaux €14.50 BRONZE

EW: Good quality spicy Cabernet fruit backing up the Merlot makes this a real hit for the modest ask. Luscious, liquorice, cinnamon, cloves amid nicely resolving tannins.

MM: A basic quality level wine but a good year, 2010, means it’s punching above its weight and shows interesting floral aromas mingling with spiced plum, supple tannin and elegant acidity giving finesse.



The hinterland of Bordeaux, France’s fourth largest city, is the country’s largest delineated wine growing region (AOC), writes Ernie Whalley. Located in the southwest corner of France, adjacent to the Atlantic, the region benefits from the coastal maritime influence, typically enjoying wet springs, fairly gentle summers and mild winters. The Gulf Stream exerts a warming influence on the region. However, summer weather can be fickle, making for interesting issues when it comes to getting grapes to ripen. In any given decade the wines of Bordeaux personify not so much The Good, The Bad and The Ugly but The Great, The Good and The Indifferent. Well-ripened grapes represent the building blocks for the classic vintages – 2000, 2005, 2009 and 2010 are examples – and wines from these vintages are crafted for the long haul. There is, however, a bonus involved in guying a vintage merely fêted as ‘good’. The wines will be more affordable and ready to drink earlier. This week we continue the ‘sub €25’ theme and here are four more recommendations from the 38 tasted.

Ch.Peychaud Maisonneuve 2006 € 20.50 Brechin Watchorn, D6 BRONZE

EW: 2006 was a vintage that started with high hopes and ended up plagued with problems. Some minor wines escaped the general mediocrity and this is one of them. Savoury and complex but just a tad short of ‘elegant’.

MM: Age has added spicy, savoury leathery notes to rich damson fruit and there’s still a rake of tannin, so give it some air to soften it.


Chateau Mouras 2007 Graves Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, Co Dublin;;, D2 €19.99 SILVER

EW: Totally typical Graves with abundant redcurrant fruit, cinnamon and clove hints and the give-away powdery ‘afterfeel’ high up on the roof of the mouth. Savvy winemaking. 

MM: Very successful for a difficult year like 2007 with attractive and characteristic Graves style showing redcurrant fruit rather than black and gentle spice with a little tannin.


Ch.Mahon Laville 2010 €17.99, D7 BRONZE

EW: Almost hypermodern. A massive chunk of blackcurrant and brambly ripe fruit. The thought struck – could this be the Bordeaux that could lead lovers of Chilean wine back to the source? 

MM: A very modern style with shiny black fruit pastille like fruit and distinctive vanillin oak character.


Mitchells Claret 2009 €12.50, IFSC and Glasthule, Co Dublin BRONZE

EW: Well made wine from a really good vintage. Decent weight of rich fruit with the tannins kept in check. Just about as good an introduction to red Bordeaux as you could get.

MM: A great vintage like 2009 means even on the lower rungs of the quality ladder you ret rich smooth plumy fruit enlivened by a dash of spice.








In the early post-apartheid years South Africa enjoyed considerable patronage from Irish wine drinkers. Today, however, inflation has ramped up prices, making them a hard sell. Initially, South African wine was massively over-hyped. Years of isolation left the industry with scant opportunity to investigate what was happening in other wine regions and bereft of self-criticism. South Africa was also lumbered with pinotage, an indigenous grape variety seen as a national treasure but which, maladroitly handled, produces a wine with an elastoplast nose and a palate revealing notes of ersatz coffee and smoking tyres. Better wine science, helped by Interaction with winemakers in other countries, subsequently improved the wines dramatically. A key factor in the quality hike has been the transference of varieties such as merlot and sauvignon blanc to more suitable sites. In this tasting we found many interesting wines – including a respectable pinotage! 21 wines tasted, 8 chosen, here are the first four. Caroline Byrne, wine columnist  for Irish Garden, deputises for Martin Moran, away judging in England..


Neil Ellis Aenigma 2007, Elgin €18.99 Mortons, Galway;, D7, 64 Wines, Glasthule. Co Dublin


EW: The cheaper of a brace from a respected winemaker, this was a Bordeaux blend where the mint and herbal fragrance of cabernet franc floated over substantial plum and cabernet fruit. Absorbing and well-made.

CB: Fragrant mineral nose, with a touch of green bell pepper leads into very drinkable merlot-led red and black berry fruit fruit.



Post House Penny Black 2010, Stellenbosch €25.99 Many independents including Hole in the Wall, D7; Matsons, Bandon, Co Cork; Grapevine,Glasnevin, D9; Mulcahy’s. Charleville, Co Cork


EW: An unfeasible pot pourri of shiraz, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot and chenin blanc (ours not to reason why) that  fuse into a beast of naked power that still manages to charm. Skillfully made – but pleading to be drunk with rich roast meats.

CB: Phew! A floral  plus heather-and-herb nose then an explosion of rich ripe fruit – everything from raspberries to damsons. Needs food.



Glen Carlou Pinot Noir 2011 Paarl €16.99 Florries Fine Wines, Tramore Co Waterford; Worldwide Wines, Waterford;, D2   BRONZE

EW: A fragrant floral and true-to-varietal nose segueing into strawberry and cherry fruit with good balancing acidity make for a very pretty, even elegant, wine. Good value too.

CB: An intriguing black pepper-spiked nose, with strawberry, anis and cake spices on the palate with a Graves-like powdery aftertaste. Very pretty wine.



Graham Beck Pinotage 2010, Robertson €15.99 and many independents. BRONZE

EW: Amazing! This ultra-reliable producer has made a ‘pinotage without tears’ even I can enjoy.  Fragrant lightly-roasted coffee, violets and bergamot on the nose. Abundant plummy fruit, highlighted by soft dark tannins and pluperfect acid balance. Long finish.

CB: By far the nicest of the pinotage we tasted. An attractive floral nose, followed by dense blueberry fruit with a hint of cumin and coffee.






If your grapes can’t stand the heat, get into shiraz, seems to be the mantra for modern South African winemaking writes Ernie Whalley. It’s a course of action I remember advocating on a visit there over twenty years ago after tasting a good deal of ‘overcooked’ merlot and pinotage. The suggestion was met with decided scepticism from grape farmers ingrained in the old ways. Things change – today syrah/shiraz is the cultivar that has shown the most dramatic growth in terms of plantings, new wines and competition entries.

The first confirmation of shiraz being planted on South African soil was at the end of the 1890’s in the vineyards of Groot Constantia. Later, some 15 examples are recorded as entries in the 1935 Cape Agricultural Wine Competition. Interestingly, 12 of these were sweet wines. By 1978 a mere 20 shiraz-based wines were recorded but the 1990’s saw a boom in plantings. Today shiraz is the country’s second largest planted red variety and fourth overall after chenin blanc (steen), cabernet sauvignon and colombard.


Bellow’s Rock Shiraz, 2011, Coastal Region €9.99 BRONZE


EW: A whiff of black pepper and allspice announces classical shiraz with a weight of greengage, dark plum and brambly fruit, with the alcohol sensibly constrained to 14.5% ABV. Excellent value.


CB: Floral nose with notes of black pepper and a whiff of spice. Plenty of rich fruit and a long finish. A touch of class about this wine.




Boland Cellar Five Climates Shiraz 2010 €13.99 Londis, Malahide, Co Dublin; Fresh Stores; Hole in the Wall, D7; 1601, Kinsale, Co Cork; Village Off Licence, D15 BRONZE


EW Spice and savoury fruit, a decent stab at producing a South African wine with Northern Rhone character. Pleasurable, greatly involving and good value for the ask.


CB: On the nose a compote of plum and morello cherry. Masses of plummy fruit on the palate, with grippy tannins that will help the wine develop.





Goats do Roam 2011, Paarl €12.99, D11 and many independents BRONZE


EW: Charles Back’s vintage pun – Côtes du Rhône, geddit? –  still amuses and this balanced blend of Syrah (61%) plus 5 other grapes associated with the Southern Rhône proves reliable as ever.


CB: Not overly complex but well-made tasty stuff that emphasises good fruit selection and confident winemaking.




Delheim Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005, Simonsberg-Stellenbosch €15.99 nationwide SILVER


EW: Serious wine. Beautifully integrated fruit with an abundance of dark berries; tannins resolving nicely, good length. All-in-all, enticing well-structured wine that belies its age.


CB: Extraordinarily aromatic with a touch of smoke, blackcurrant and blueberry fruit. Well integrated oak and tannins.




READ ERNIE WHALLEY &  MARTIN MORAN every Sunday in ‘Sunday’ Magazine in The Sunday Times (IE)