Wine: Pontebello Pinot Grigio, Australia — €7.99

BRACE yourselves, the rumours keep coming that wine is going to go up another 50c in the Budget. 

Any readers in Limerick City could do worse than have a word with Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and ask him why he is trying to put small wine importers out of business.

Once the independent importers are gone many of their best customers — the independent off-licences — will not be far behind. I might sound pessimistic but there have already been significant job losses in the sector in the last two years and there will be more after Christmas.

One solution for the guys that are really struggling is to join a group like Carry Out owned by the Barry Group which also owns CostCutter and QuickPick. There are now 74 Carry Outs throughout the country and they hope to break the 100 mark by early next year. Dublin in particular will see more outlets it seems.

While shops buy their stock from the Barry Group in Mallow they can also buy niche products if they wish to expand their range and you can see this in evidence in the huge range carried in many of the larger shops.

The Barry Group employs 230 people in Mallow and is run by Jim Barry who learned well from his father James A Barry who founded the company in 1955. Jim (jnr) has turned what was a successful local business into a nationwide distribution company with 265 franchises that also supplies many independent retailers and wholesalers.

Wine and Beer buyers Linda Sheehan and Gary Ring have been gradually building up the company’s portfolio and I tasted my way through their range recently and found a lot to admire. There are new lines being introduced all the time including a new Spanish range for which they expect very good things. In addition expect to see an expanded wine section in your local CostCutter as well as more craft beers.

Below are some of my favourites from the Barry Group’s own range.

BEST VALUE UNDER €15

Pontebello Pinot Grigio, Australia — €7.99

Stockists: Carry Out Off-Licences, CostCutter

A reader emailed me recently to ask why I never mention Pinot Grigio so this is for her. Many Pinot Grigios are very light and simple in my view but that seems to be what people love — and if you are in that category then this as it is about as fresh and clean as you will find and at a fantastic price.

Aviary Sauvignon Blanc, Central Valley, Chile — €9.99

Stockists: Carry Out Off-Licences, CostCutter

It is hard to beat Chile for lively fresh Sauvignon Blanc and this is no exception. Although the label says Central Valley this also contains some fruit from the cool Casablanca Valley and I think it shows. This punches well above its weight with pear and kiwi aromas and a bright lemony finish.

Aviary Rosé Cabernet Sauvignon — €9.99

Stockists: Carry Out Off-Licences, CostCutter

This is a rosé for red wine lovers as blindfolded you would be hard pushed to tell the difference. Strong dark pink colour with ripe red fruit and touches of plums. Light dry crisp finish and lingering raspberry kick on the finish. A food rosé for an autumn picnic perhaps.

BEST VALUE UNDER €25

“M” Maison Francais Malbec, Pays d’Oc, France — €10.99

Stockists: Carry Out Off-Licences, CostCutter

Malbec originates in Cahors in South West France but the style there is much more rustic than we have come to expect from Argentina. This is actually from the Languedoc but is made in a New World style with lots of violet aromas and dense chewy cherry and plum fruit. This probably needs some steak or lamb to show at its best.

Aviary Gran Reserva Pinot Noir, Casablanca, Chile — €17.99

Stockists: Carry Out Off-Licences, CostCutter

While Chilean Pinot is never going to taste of Gevrey Chambertin it is often an excellent wine in its own right as this restrained and elegant example shows. Cherry fruit aromas give way to more red fruit flavours in a structured, dry (slightly tannic) style.

Collalto Prosecco Spumante Brut, Italy — €21.99

Stockists: Carry Out Off-Licences, CostCutter,

This is full fizz Prosecco and all the better for it (remember that Frizzante Prosecco is not actually fizzy enough to be classed as sparkling wine so can be sold at a lower tax rate). This has very fine light bubbles with fragrant peach and apple on the palate. This is also bone dry so will go well with food.

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