Monday, November 30, 2009

Birthday Wines II - The Stragglers

Just a quick note on a couple of other fine wines I also got from more generous souls for my birthday.

Chateau Belgrave Haut Medoc 2004 - Cheers Rigo - looks lovely.

Chateau Lynch Bages 2000 - My all time favourite wine that, I have never tasted, cheers Papa.

Faustino 1 Gran Reserva 1996 - A classic Rioja from S&V

Note: This blog been way Off Topic the last couple of weeks, its supposed to be about good value wine in Dublin, not a parade of fancy, pricey wine that people give me. Thanks to everyone for the fine wine and normal service will soon be restored, once I drink all the good stuff 8-)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Saturday Night Fever

There's a joke, of sorts in the title. You see, June didn't get a Thanksgiving dinner this year so we offered to do a little Turkey and I added a sweetner with the offer to open my birthday Montrachet and that sealed the deal. We started with it:

Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Clos Saint-Jean 2005 - delicious, minerally, a little bit biscuity. As my ol' papa once told me "White Burgundy & Red Bordeaux" was the way to go so, following that maxim, next up was a Bordeaux give to me by Rigo for my Birthday.

Chateau Belgrave - Haut Medoc 2004 - This was an extremely nice claret. I wasn't sure what to expect when I opened this, I had thought this would be a decent tipple, drinking well now and for another few years. As it happened this turned out to be a cracker, a very big, fruity beast, don't know where to get it but I'd buy more if I could.

At this point June's bug re-asserted itself and she has to retire for the evening, which was doubly unfortunate for her as she had brought along a wine I'd given her for her birthday and which we had already decanted, and so myself and Herself had to drink it.

d'Arenberg Sticks and Stones 2004 - A very unusual blend of grapes here; Tempranillo, Grenache, and Souzao (description here), the last grape I'd never even heard of. I opened and decanted this at 7 o'clock, it took until about 9-30 before this wine really opened up. It didn't help that the wine was a little cool from June's "cellar". Initially this was a touch sharp and acidic, but by the time 9-30 rolled around it had morphed into a complex , warm, rich beauty. Sorry June, I'll buy you another bottle.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Trying Birthday Wines 1- The Phantom Menace

This probably not the best time to do a wine write up, after several pints of Arthur's finest but hey, the show must go on. After trying the first two I feel I should at least do a quick review.

Scala dei Cartoixa Priorat 2005 - I didn't know what to expect here having never had a Priorat before. Quite a big fruity nose when I decanted it but not so much in evidence after an hour. A big powerful wine, Herself reckoned quite Bordeaux like, I thought it more mid-Atlantic, with some fruity characteristics along with some old-world structure. Very nice all told and I will endeavour to try more from this regions as the purse allows.

Norton Privada 2006 - I noted in my initial post that "the privada is a premium version, with Cab Sav & Merlot added, so am expecting good things here". This was to be its strength and its undoing. I really liked the care that into making this wine, sometimes you can taste it, but I wasn't such a fan of the sweet, fruity notes therein. Perhaps this was to do with the fact that Cab Sav and Merlot had been added to the normally Old World-ish Malbec (one of only six wines allowed when making Bordeaux).

Note: I have mixed feelings about not being 100% enthusiastic about wines which I have been generously given as birthday presents but I guess there's always the dichotomy between "journalistic" integrity and something something - screw it, I'm off to watch the Late Late Toy Show.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

John Wilson's Favourite Australians Report

Went to John Wilson's favourite Australians last night with BE as described here, organised by John McDonnell from Wine Australia. We had a fun time and managed to try 31 of the 70 wines which ranged in price from €7-99 for a Michelton Thomas Mitchel Marsanne to an eye watering €200 odd for a 2001 Penfold's Grange. The wines were divided up into sections (loosely) by grape and/or style as follows:

Note: All reviews are based on a few single words and underlinings scribbled on the program, and some of them are now wholly illegible/unintelligible.

"Serious Fizz" - Four sparklers, we tried all but the most expensive and as predicted (I am becoming a shocking champagne snob), they got better as the price increased with the most expensive we tried, the Green Point Sparkling NV being deliciously buttery and the most champagne-esque.

"Fresh and Zingy" - 8 wines, mostly Semillon , unf. this table was mobbed and the next table was empty (Rieslings) so we tried not a one of these and later on plum forgot to go back - oops.

"The World of Riesling" - After missing out on the zing we sampled three of these (of nine - when you have a potential 70 wines to taste, you start slow). All were decent. The Chalker's Crossing was light and dry (€12-95), the Wakefield Estate , bigger more upfront (€12-99), and lastly the most expensive, the Grosset Polish Hill Riesling (€32-99) a delicious minerally beast.

"Plump and Round" - not YHB but various odds and sods Whites. We were getting warmed up here and managed a creditable 5 out of 8. The cheapest wine of the night a Michelton Thomas Mitchel Marsanne, was perfectly pleasant, while the Tahbilk Marsanne was bigger and bolder and a snip at €11-95. After a sweet Yalumba Viognier (€13-99) and a sweeter d'Arenburg The Hermit Crab (€13-95) we sampled the most expensive wine of the section at €29-99, The Henschke Pinot Gris which a lightly fruited and very stylish finish to this part of the repast.

"Classic Chardonnay" - We tried the two very expensive chardonnays (out of three) and to be honest, while they were both very pleasant albeit New Worldy (IMHO) , I wouldn't lash out 50 notes on either the Cullen Kevin John Chardonnay (€49-99) or the Leewin Art Series Chardonnay (€54-00). John Wilson loves both and he's the professional but for this money I'd take a Montrachet. Here endeth the Whites.

"Pinot Corner" - Four Moderately priced Pinots and a dear one, we tried two moderate ones and, of course, the pricey one. The M&S tasmanin Pinot was OK, light but pleasant and priced well at (€12-49). The Yering Station, not so cheap at €18-50 but a decent step up from the M&S with a bit more depth of flavour. Lastly the De Bertoli, to be served chilled by all accounts, coming in at a cool €40-50. Very nice but good value?

"Glorious Grenache" - Again we had two of three here - the d'Arenberg Stump Jump, a delicious GSM and a steal at €11-95, followed by the St Hallett Gamekeeper's Reserve, very nice, very French and a bigger steal at €9-99.

"Cabernet and Bordeaux Blends" - some of these wines re-affimed by dislike for pure Oz Caberents. The style just isn't for me, too dry and tannic with wines such as the Grosset Gaia (€39-95) and the Parker Estate Cabernet (€28-00). The Clairaut Estate Cabernet Merlot (€31-00) however, was right up my street, "harmonious and fruity" according to my notes.

"Shiraz and Blends" - 21 wines here spread over two tables making this the biggest section on the night and perhaps a glimpse into Johns Wilson's personal preferences? We sampled 10 out of 21 which wasn't bad going . I have a confession to make at this point; the final 4 shiraz's tasted were tasted very early in the night. After the Rieslings, we noticed John Wilson and an attendee* having a crafty tipple of the Grange. Fearing that we might lose out on it if we kept moving around the tables in order, we shamelessly ran over to blag some of Australia's finest. The attendee turned out to be Lar from SourGrapes who was making a flying visit. It was nice to put a face to a name, cheers Lar.

Anyway, the wines. Tyrells Vat 9 Shiraz (€37-99) - not great, corked we reckoned. Clonakilla Hilltops Shiraz (€23-99), lovely, subtle, scribble. Innocent Bystander Shiraz/Viognier (€14-99) - great value, very French. Mt Langi Ghiran Shiraz - too fruity for me and too dear at €50. Voyager Estate Shiraz (€27-50) - lovely, refined much better value than the Mt Langi. Tim Adams Shiraz, as recommended by our knowledgeable server, fantastic, balanced, super value.
The Last Four were - Glaetzer Bishop Shiraz, fine structure and body (€24), Henschke Mount Edelstone (€75) pricey but very nice. Penfolds St Henri (€56-49) - the new baby Grange, same grapes, different barrels, very refined and fine indeed. The Grange (drumroll), I have wanted to try this for years but have never had the spons. Firstly a big alcoholic wash and then a huge finish and lots of oak. An experience, but not worth €200 in my book.

"Sweet and Sticky" - We tried two out of four here on the way out the door, a little unsteadily if truth be told. Grant Burge 10 year old Tawny, very port-ish and BE loved it. Rutherglen Estates Muscat - Deliciously sweet dessert wine.

Many thanks to the Johns and to all concerned. The lesson to myself on the night is that on the white side my tastes tend to the Rieslings and the offbeat whites, Marsanne & Viognier. On the Red side I seem to favour medium priced reds (€15- €30), the cheaper reds I generally find too jammy and the more expensive reds seem not to be such good value, as there is plenty of quality in the mid-range.

Next up - either Birthday Wines II - The Stragglers or my reviews of the first two wines of Birthday Wines I - The Siblings which we have opened so far.

Monday, November 23, 2009

More Whiskey - Too much is never enough.

As I noted previously people have been extraordinarily generous this year on the occasion of my Derek Nimmo birthday. Bizarrely, Derek was a wine expert and wrote books on the subject - who knew, eh Obo?

Back on topic, three new whiskeys to introduce (L-R)

Glenmorangie Original - As time goes on I like this whiskey more and more. Plus it came with two nifty whiskey tumblers, which I was sadly lacking in. Nice one BigBog (and his lovely wife)

Ballantines 21 yo - Am dying to try this 21 year old, deep dark brown coloured blend - Alas not on a school night, roll on Friday. Check out for tasting notes.
(Cheers guitar man & mrs)

Bowmore 18 - Until I got the Ballantines this was briefly my oldest whiskey. I have had great experience with older Islays - Laphrohaig , Caol Ila and Bruich Laddich older expressions are normally less in your face and more refined and complex IMHO. This should not be an exception. (As previously noted - Ta BigWop)

Not pictured are a Glenfiddich 12yo (Kev's favorite) and a bottle of delicious Powers to restore the balance somewhat towards the Irish.

Next Up - Birthday Wine 2 - The Drunkening

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Birthday Wine I

As I mentioned in my last post, I got a selection of fine wines from three of my siblings, I have divided them up into three groups.

Old World Whites (L-R)

Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Clos Saint-Jean 2005 - I've had a number of Montrachets over the years including a particularly fine one the day after my wedding, whose name escapes me, and have always enjoyed them. Again am looking forward to this.

Meursault "En la Barre" 2001 Francois Jobard - I love white burgundy but have never had a Meursault, my bad. Looking forward to this a lot and will wait for a special occasion.

Old World Reds (L-R)

Corton Clos Du Roi Grand Cru 2006 - A very, very fine Burgundy, 91 points from Wine Spectator, will keep this for a while, methinks.

Scala dei Cartoixa Priorat 2005 - I have always wanted to try a Priorat, having heard great things about this boutique, low volume Spaniard from Catalonia. Am drinking it as I type, yum, review to follow.

Torresilo Ribera Del Duero 2006 - Even though we are sort of a Rioja family, I have always had a soft spot of Riberas. One we will drink soon.

Amarone della Valpolicella Vignetti di Marcellise 2006 - Another one of my fave wines, Amarone. I, being cheap, normally go for the poor man's Amarone, Valpolicalla Ripapsso, so hey, bonus.

New World Reds (L-R)

Norton Privada 2006 - Grandad D got me into Norton a number of years ago . They make a pretty decent entry level Malbec that I have drunk gallons of. The privada is a premium version, with Cab Sav & Merlot added, so am expecting good things here.

Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard Cabernet Shiraz 2004 - This sounds very interesting, an Ozzie Cabernet Shiraz that is selling itself on the basis of its terroir, which is unusual for a New world wine, BE needs to be here for this one.

Domus Aurea Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 - This is supposed to be a huge beast of a wine and one of Chile's best. I have had mixed results with Chile in the past, most of what I have tasted has been cheap & fruity and not for me but this looks quality, again terroir is being promoted.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


We decide to celebrate the aforementioned birthday with a dinner for two at Pichet on trinity street about which much had been written since it opened, most of it very good. For the evening that was in it, rather than have a pint in a pub beforehand we opted to go all posh and have a glass of wine in the winebar in the basement of Fallon & Byrne, which belied the "recession" by being jammed.

Herself made a bold choice, a Pinotage Viognier mix from Fairview in South Africa, which was delicious - fruity and smoky, although perhaps enough at one glass, YHB would find it a little cloying to drink a whole bottle. I chose a Capezanna Barco Reale Di Carmignano a Tuscan (super?) with a nice mix of fruit and tannins.

Then off to the main event in Pichet. Firstly the food was superb and very reasonably priced, we had 2 glasses of Champagne , a 500ml Pichet of Barbera d'Alba, 2 starters, 2 mains, one dessert (I'm watching my figure), a coffee and a green tea for less then a hundred notes. I had heard the service could be patchy but ours was very good, perhaps because main man Nick was on duty,
btw - the deep fried hen's egg starter is justifiably famous.

On an unrelated note, I must have been a nicer person in a past life cos two people have just dropped in presents. BigWop just called in with an 18yo Bowmore from Islay and my eldest bro popped by after with a selection of nine carefully selected wines from himself, my sister and my youngest bro, all from Oddbins. There are some very nice wines indeed in this selection which will form the basis of my next post.

Tonight its off to the pub to get slaughtered with the laws, in-laws, and anybody else who wants to come.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Dunnes Tautavel and other news

I'm laid up again. This time with a nasty stomach bug/flu, looks like someone is trying to ensure I don't enjoy the celebrations for my (hem-hem)th birthday. I seem (touch wood) to be over the worst of it and while I'm not yet in the mood to drink wine I should be able to at least waffle about it.

Also (touch wood again) I'm going to finally get to go to a Wine Australia do, this one, next Tuesday. I have a long complex relationship with Australian wine which has evolved as my tastes have changed over the years as explained here, and I'm looking forward to this evening followed by Liverpool and Lyon victories in the Champions league.

Firstly a quick report on the Chateau Camplazens La Garrigue 2004 we sampled last Sunday night. As the tasting notes opined, this was a fairly light wine (60% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 10% Carignan) but with plenty of cherry and herbaceous flavours. A little Chateau Neuf du Pape'y IMHO.

Next up a wine I used to drink a load of but Dunnes haven't stocked it for a while, the Gerard Bertrand Tautavel reserve 2006. Perhaps this is a different vintage to the stuff I used to drink, I can't recall noting the year. the confusing this about this wine is that it appears to be the same as the Tesco Tautavel I tried last week, albeit with a different label and a different year (2005) - see here.

The Dunnes variety is, and has always been on sale at half price for €7-99. One thing I discovered about it back in the day was that it must be decanted for a good hour. It is only at this stage that the flavours begin to emerge. I didn't really enjoy this particular bottle for some reason but I had bought three as emergency wines for Saturday so I'll try it again and see if its as good as the Tesco instance.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Latest Whiskeys & a big surprise.

Another whiskey post coming at ya so if you so if that's not your bag please look away now.

Three kind people opted to celebrate my recent naissance with the gift of single malt scotch whiskey. I don't know where they got the idea that I'd like that. I also got another booze related gift that I've wanted for ages - a homebrew kit from these guys. Thanks to all concerned and for all the other presents.

From left to right they are:

Glenmorangie Lasanta - I sampled this at a tasting back in August and fell in love with it then. Although I had forgotten that it weighs in at a hefty 46% abv. We had a good go at this on the night and I look forward to savouring this in a more relaxing environment.

The Glenlivet French Oak Reserve 15yo - I have only had the 12yo before which I liked so am looking forward to this one. "Selective maturation in new Limousin oak casks, usually reserved for wine, has added delicate overtones of the spices highly prized in fine wines, while perfectly complementing the subtle elegance of the original malt," explains Jim Cryle, Master Distiller at The Glenlivet Distillery.

Springbank "Longrow" 7yo Gaja Barolo Cask Finish - this is a whiskey that cries out for a drop of water, not least because it comes in at a whopping 55.6% abv! We had a quick nip of this on the night and it was peaty and powerful. This a very unusual dram, matured for 5.5 years in Bourbon casks followed by 18 months in Barolo casks.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

It's just a number...

Well, it's all over. Firstly a big thank you to Herself for secretly organising the whole shebang and for providing a wonderful 6 course meal to celebrate our XX birthday. All the courses were delicious and especially the Mushroom cappuccino and the pork belly main.

Secondly, kudos to sous chef June, who gave up her Friday night to make the Chocolate whiskey truffle souffles and who heroically struggled to the dinner despite being quite under the weather.

Thirdly thanks to all who came and for the lovely gifts, wines, whiskeys, chocolates etc.

On the wine front we started out with a couple of bottles of Veuve-Clicquot NV, as furnished by the newly svelte Jess, who also brought along her own Bombay mix. This was delicious and refreshing and I'm turning into a champagne snob.

With the first course , the aforementioned Mushroom Cappuccino served as an accompaniment to a chunk of Fois Gras and a hockey puck of Duck Rillette, I served Chateau Haut-Theulet Monbazillac - 2004, that I picked up here. It was sweet, orangey and gorgeous.

Next up was a smoked salmon and rocket salad drizzled with a creme fraiche and horseradish dressing, with which I served another wine from here, the Chateau Cailleval - Bergerac Sec - 2007, which was OK. Perhaps it suffered being in between the Monbazillac and the Montalcino.

The main course was a triumph, braised pork belly served with pea champ, caramelised apple and Calvados jus. Herself cooked this for approx 4 hours on a low heat and it was fabulous.
We had the Rosso di Montalcino with the pork and while the wine itself was delicious, maybe a slightly more full bodied wine would have suited the flavours of the dish better.

Next up were the Chocolate whiskey truffle souffles,which unfortunately were served without their creator who had retired early due to illness. I served a lovely Sauternes with this, also brought along by Jess, a Chateau Filhot 2005. June had also brought a dessert wine and an unusual one at that. A sweet red Signature Vin Doux Natural from Rasteau. This is a pure old-vine Grenache, the jury is still out on this one, I'd need to try it again, when I'm slightly more sober. We also had a cork malfunction with this one and it kind of went everywhere, sorry Big Nose.

With the cheeses (from Matthews cheese cellar) we finished off the Montalcino and opened a couple of the wines presented on the night, a Clos Du Val Caberbnet 2004, a Frentano Montepulciano 2007 and so on. I had started on my new Whiskeys at this stage (on which I will post separately) so I didn't get to do much more wine tasting.

Tonight we are going to try a Chateau Camplazens La Garrigue 2004 from the La Clape Sub-Appelation in the Languedoc, brought along by the third member of our little club, media darling JK and his lovely wife.

Anyhoo - less typing more imbibing, smell you all later.

**Update** - after some rather scathing input from Herself on my use of the vernacular, I have made some changes to the above post. I hope I didn't offend anyone with the changes what I done.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Taste of Italy

I'm back in the land of the living, just, and I give thanks, as a devout Pastafarian, to the Flying Spaghetti Monster that I'm back off the wagon. It was truly the driest weekend in living memory.

Anyhoo, we having a little soirette this Saturday, to celebrate a variety of milestones, mine not the least, but especially my old friend Edwaf returning home for the weekend from Chicago (Thanks Jess!!). JK while not yet "there" will also be a guest of honour.

As the winebore in residence it would ill behoove me to serve anything other than various fine wines. I have in stock, a Monbazillac (to go with the Fois Gras) and some Bererac Sec (fish course) from May, along with some nice bubbly as an aperitif. I wanted some nice red for the main, so I went to O'Brien's with Little Bill on Saturday in the midst of the aforementioned drought.

I had thought Bordeaux or Italian, and as usual any decent Bordeaux was out of my price range given the volume I needed to buy. So Italian it was. The helpful chap recommended this Sangiovese or this Valpolicella Ripasso based on my specifications.

I went back tonight to buy both to taste them but they only had 2 bottles of the Tuscan in stock and won't get any more of it in time for the big event. The suggested alternative, a Rosso di Montalcino, along with the Valpolicello Ripasso were duly purchased, see picture above.

I decided, rather than try them on consecutive nights to open both tonight, and do a direct comparison. The Valpolicella Ripasso tasted quite sharp initially but after 30 minutes or so in the glass it evolved into a big, tannic beast, delicious but maybe not a party wine.

The Rosso di Montalcino however was a much more balanced if lighter wine, perfectly balanced and wonderful - we have a winner.

That's it for now, I'll let you know on Sunday how it all went.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


I'm back to being the elephant man so no more jar for a few days - see here.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tesco Tautavel

I wrote this earlier in the week...

Last but not least I also picked up a Tesco Tautavel 2005, a snip at €10-79 (I hope), it's an Appelation Cotes Du Roussillon Villages Tautavel Controlee by Gerard Bertrand, phew. Don't know much about Tautavel except its in the Languedoc and Dunnes used to sell one for €8-50 (half price, they said) which was delicious but it absolutely had to be decanted for best effect.

Name: Tesco Tautavel 2005 Gerard Bertrand
Year: 2005
Price: €10-79
Notes: I loved, loved, loved this. Similar to the Dunnes version, this needed some time in the decanter, but boy howdy it was worth the wait. The first thing you notice is the spiciness, followed by some fruit and a wash of soft tannins. A lovely and complex wine and great value for a tenner.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

John Wilson's Favourite Australians

John Wilson's Favourite Australians
Tuesday 24th November
6.30pm - 8.30pm
The Function Room at Fallon and Byrne,
11-17 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2

John McDonnell from Wine Australia has asked me to give a shout about the above event which I hope to attend. John has invited me to many wine events and due to a variety of people letting me down 8-) I have been unable to go to any of these, d'oh. Either way here is the skinny from John Mc

"During the summer I gave John the task of pulling together his selection of Favourite Australian wines.
The task wasn't to draw up a list of Australia's best wines, but as John says,
"My first criteria for choosing these wines was very simple; would I be happy to share a bottle of any of them with my friends? The answer had to be yes. The list is certainly not a definitive gathering of the greatest wines of Australia, although I have included a fair number of these. It is my personal choice of the best Australian wines I have enjoyed over the last year."
The task is now complete (with a final count of 70 wines) which covers all styles, regions and prices.
John and myself will host a tasting of all these wines on the evening of Tuesday 24th November in Fallon and Byrne.
Places cost 20 Euro and are available from our office on or 065 7077264.
(This could be the event to take away all those Christmas buying and present selecting challenges.)"

Well there you have it, what are you still doing here? Go drink some wine or something.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Invisible airwaves crackle with life

or something. Lots to get through so let's get this moving along fairly lively.

Firstly I made a quick pit stop at the new Off Licence in the Village (the Vineyard) and had lovely chat with the(I'm guessing French) chap inside who I presume is the boss. He recommended the wine above a Morellino Di Sansano Serpaia 2007 , priced on the not inconsiderable level of €16. This is 100% Sangiovese from Tuscany. I liked this but I didn't love it, it was perfectly fine, some nice cherry bitterness and a decent finish but for the money I expected a little more.

I was also recommended the Altitude 450 Cotes Du Ventoux for the visit of the Outlaws, "lil" sis and the flyboy on Sunday which I had intended to pick up on the day. Unfortunately I had to work all day (mutter mutter) and I had to pick up spuds and ginger and a couple of other things on the way so Tesco was the only place for me (Ever tried buying root ginger in a Spar/Londis/Centra?).

The wine above was on special offer and me being a dedicated bargain hunter (cheap) I got three. Tesco Cotes Du Rhone Villages Reserve 2007, our guests all opined in the positive and I liked it too. A little lighter and fruitier than recent Rhone wines we been drinking, this went well the leg of "lamb chicken" ( Little Bill only eats chicken- beef chicken, lamb chicken, bacon chicken, pork chicken - you get the idea)

Last but not least I also picked up a Tesco Tautavel 2005, a snip at €10-49 (I hope), it's an Appelation Cotes Du Roussillon Villages Tautavel Controlee by Gerard Bertrand, phew. Don't know much about Tautavel except its in the Languedoc and Dunnes used to sell one for €8-50 (half price, they said) which was delicious but it absolutely had to be decanted for best effect. Anyhoo - back to Kenny Powers.