Following the recent excise increase of 50 cents on a bottle of wine, it seems to me that the Government is trying to close down independent wine merchants and importers.
Since the 2012 budget increase, there have been 11 off-licence closures, resulting in a loss of 60 jobs, according to NOffLA, the independent off-licence trade organisation. This increase will bring more closures, perhaps as many as 30, if NOffLA predictions are correct.
Before the budget, the tax on wine in Ireland was 576% higher than the EU average. Now, we are approaching 650%. The liquid in a bottle of wine that costs €10 is now worth 50 cents. Yes, you read that correctly.
Irish people rightly treasure their craft butchers and artisan food producers, and now I think it is time we started to treasure our wine merchants. Ireland would be a poorer place if we did not have shops such as Bradleys, on North Main Street, 1601, in Kinsale, Karwigs, in Carrigaline, Mitchells, in Glasthule, The Vintry, in Rathgar (where I help out, occasionally) and far too many others to mention.
There is an old saying: “Life is too short to drink bad wine” — so, this week, I am urging you to up your spend a little and buy your wine in your local off-licence, not in the supermarket, where they won’t miss your money, given how often wine is used as a loss leader these days.
This column will, of course, still cover supermarket wines and include wines costing €10, but, for the sake of fairness to the independents, and because I want to recommend more interesting wine, we have changed the focus, from wines under €10 and €20 to wines under €15 and €25.
Stockists: No. 21 Coburg St. and Midleton, Hollands Bray, Deveneys Dundrum and Rathmines
This is one of my favourite wines under €15 and is imported Cork-based Michael Logan of River Wines. A blend of Grenache and Syrah from one of the lesser known appellations of the Southern Rhone. Packed with complex red and dark fruit flavours, spice, and hints of dark chocolate, punching above its weight.
Stockists: Sheridans Galway and Dublin http://www.sheridanscheesemongers.com/, Mitchells Glasthule.
Imported by Grape Circus wines for Sheridans Cheesemongers. Negroamaro is the classic grape of the Salento peninsula in the heel of Italy and this has very typical aromas of bitter cherries and stewed plums. On the palate I found sweet raisins and ripe cherries and a complex elegant finish.
Stockists: 1601 Kinsale, Ardkeen Waterford, Vintry Rathgar, Redmonds Ranelagh
This is imported by family-owned McKenway Wines who have a knack of finding good wines from (relatively) obscure places. Saumur is one of the best red wine villages of the Loire (along with Chinon) and this sweet raspberry and red-currant flavoured red made from Cabernet Franc is perfect with pork dishes or mild game if someone brings you a brace of pheasant.
Stockists: Karwigs Carrigaline www.karwigwines.ie
From an ancient estate at Kraichgau in Baden, and one of many excellent dry German wines imported by Karwigs. Aromas of sweet yellow apples and grapefruit, bright green apple and citrus flavours on the palate and a bone-dry finish. Try with some baked smoked ham.
Stockists: Fields Skibbereen, Mortons Galway, Lilac Wines Fairview
Imported by Mary Pawle wines (www.marypawlewines.com) based in Kenmare who specialise in organic wines. This is a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Xarel-Lo and has had some oak contact, but not enough to overpower the fresh melon and peach aromas. Ripe and plump on the palate but mineral and crisp on the finish.
Stockists: Fields Skibbereen, O’Donovans Cork, Mortons Galway, Lilac Wines Fairview
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Merlot, Tempranillo and Syrah from just north of Barcelona. This is also organic andhas welcoming aromas of vanilla and bramble fruits and generously fruited palate with dark fruit flavours with a touch of spice and tobacco, perfect for warming autumn casseroles.