I freely admit that my job would be boring if I only tasted wines from supermarkets and large importers.
I adore the small passionate firms finding limited production wines.
Wine Mason is one of these — run and operated by Barbara Boyle MW and her husband Ben Mason plus two others including Mick O’Connell MW.
You read that correctly, two masters of wine out of four employees with Barbara and Mick graduating this year after four years of intensive study — many take much longer, most give up.
“It was a huge commitment financially, in time and energy, and on family — but it really was the best thing I’ve ever done,” says Boyle.
“Unlike a degree in oenology this is about self-discovery, your thinking changes, you question everything, and you have to know so so much.
“The syllabus is wider than it is deep, covering everything from viticulture to packing and distribution over multiple markets.”
O’Connell’s big love is island wines from places like Corsica and Sardinia (where he has started making his own wine), while Boyle is seeking out nuggets in Portugal and Austria.
Both are passionate, but O’Connell sees himself as a salesman, Boyle (who worked in finance) focuses more on the structure of the business, on trends, and on market predictions.
We agreed that there is a noticeable move towards elegance over blockbuster, towards craft and artisan, orange wines and ‘natural wines’, limited releases, and blends and balance over huge cabernets and syrahs.
This last was especially evident at a recent South African tasting Wine Mason organised with some other independents.
Many of these wines are not widely available outside Dublin but you will find them on wine lists including the excellent Out of the Blue in Dingle which is owned by Ben’s brother.
A not-to-be-missed wine fair. Wines from Wine Mason, Le Caveau, Grape Circus, Nomad and Vinostito.
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Sweeneys, Martins, Listons Camden St, Greenman, Corkscrew, Redmonds, Baggot St Wines, Clontarf Wines, Jus de Vine
Portugal is a speciality of Wine Mason and they are now expanding their white range.
A blend of Loureiro and Avesso (both native to Northern Portugal) grown on granite soils, this is packed with bright apple and citrus flavours, brisk acidity and a distinct green apple skin tang.
Corkscrew, Blackrock Cellars, Red Island, McHughs, Mortons
The Douro is one of the world’s great wine regions, ports of course, but also game-changing red wines made with local grapes.
This is Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) and is one of Mick’s picks — there is a lovely juicy core with subtle savoury notes and a lifted floral delicacy. Punches above its weight.
Independents, Corkscrew etc.
Regional Spain offers great value these days with lots of creativity from young winemakers.
The team team involved in making this are based in central Spain (Uclés is in Castille-La Mancha) and this is typical of their work — juicy bright red berry and dark cherry with a lifted rosemary herbal complexity.
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Donnybrook Fair, Corkscrew
Long Depaquit was one of the first Chablis I drank back in the 1990s and I think the quality is better these days as with all of Négoiciant Albert Bichot’s wines.
This has pristine bright apple, citrus and mineral flavours with fine finesse and weight.
This is a brand new wine to their list (which they found on holidays) and will be launched at the Spit festival next Thursday.
Tiny production and made with no added sulphur using ‘natural’ wine making principals — Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan with abundant fruit and spice but also freshness and vibrancy.
Redmonds, Greenman, 64 Wines, Baggot St. Wines, Blackrock Cellar, Mortons, Donnybrook Fair
Barbara’s MW Research Paper was on Port and serving temperatures and it seems there is a distinct trend towards serving Port cooler, making it a more versatile as an aperitif as well as a more classic after dinner drink.
Serve this cool to bring out the nutty, citrus and dried fruit flavours.